IAC's CollegeHumor May Go to Ben Silverman's New Venture

CEO Barry Diller Looks to Former NBC Exec to Ramp Up Branded Content

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- IAC is considering throwing CollegeHumor, in addition to cash, into Ben Silverman's nascent branded-entertainment company, Electus.

The final structure of the deal hasn't been fully hammered out, but executives with knowledge of the situation say CollegeHumor figures prominently into Mr. Silverman's plans, and could be reorganized into the new venture.

The deal would have Connected Ventures, parent of CollegeHumor and just-launched TV-production arm Notional, folded into Electus. Because both Electus and Connected Ventures are controlled by IAC chief Barry Diller, the shift wouldn't have too big an impact, but it would give Mr. Silverman an incentive to sell both TV and web concepts to networks and brands.

"We are certainly going to be working with Ben, and we are focused on trying to blow up CollegeHumor," CollegeHumor President and co-founder Josh Abramson told Ad Age. "How that's going to pan out is still up in the air."

Electus is the newly chosen name for the venture headed by Mr. Silverman, the former NBC Entertainment chairman who left the fourth-place network earlier this fall. The idea is to create TV and web properties in conjunction with major marketers that want to be more deeply integrated into entertainment than with a typical 30-second spot.

The talks are an indication that Mr. Diller is betting that Mr. Silverman's connections to marketers and his background in unscripted TV will have a positive affect on IAC's content efforts, which have yet to become a significant revenue generator for the company.

Ben Silverman
Ben Silverman Credit: Virginia Sherwood
Connected Ventures is at the core of those content efforts, but Mr. Diller is said to lack confidence that the group can effectively monetize the properties it creates. Last week, Mr. Diller said investment in original content would account for "less than 10%" of the $1.8 billion the company will have in cash over the next few years.

The newest executive at Electus, former YouTube head of content Jordan Hoffner, is certainly familiar with CollegeHumor's business; CollegeHumor runs a YouTube channel for its original programming, which has accumulated 16 million channel views.

An IAC spokesperson declined to comment on CollegeHumor's future relationship to Electus.

So far, CollegeHumor has had one show picked up by MTV, "The CollegeHumor Show," and another, "Pranked," created by CollegeHumor staff. Last summer, Mr. Diller spun off from CollegeHumor a TV-production arm called Notional, which is headed by CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen. It, in turn, acquired production company City Lights and, along with it, "Chopped," a Food Network show about to start its third season.

IAC classifies Connected Ventures among its "emerging businesses," along with Tina Brown's Daily Beast and personal finance site FiLife.

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