Viacom Looks to Web for Worldwide Growth

Names MTV Digital Media Guru to Lead the Way

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NEW YORK ( -- Underscoring Tom Freston's recipe for growth at the new Viacom -- which banks on expanding globally using the most cutting-edge technology -- MTV Networks decided it needed a global chief digital officer to coordinate its digital media efforts, and has named Jason Hirschhorn to fill that role.

Jason Hirschhorn has been named MTV Networks' global chief digital officer.

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Mr. Hirschhorn, previously the division's senior VP-digital music and media, led the development of the MTV Networks' broadband product and the recent acquisition of iFilm. With his role expanded globally, he will be charged with creating scale when it comes to the division's new media ventures. He'll also have global oversight of all of MTV Networks' domestic and international digital and interactive media strategies, leveraging technological advances in one part of the world to create a better system in another region.

The mobile arena
Europe and Asia, he noted, are clearly more advanced in the mobile area, and he'll work with the company's assets in those countries to lead innovation in the U.S.

"For us to compete in the space we have to have scale when it comes to technology, product development and even distribution," he said. "From a business and back office point of view it'll be very coordinated."

Global distribution
MTV has invested heavily to spread its global reach through distribution agreements and targeted acquisitions. It boasts more than 400 million subscribers in 164 countries and territories through 80 distinct music programming services in Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America. Additionally, it has begun to leverage its international assets to reach acculturated ethnic Americans -- it launched MTV Desi, targeted to Indian-Americans, in July and is scheduled to launched MTV Chi and MTV K, targeting Chinese-Americans and Korean-Americans, respectively, within the next year.

As an example of how scale can help innovation, Mr. Hirschhorn pointed to MTV's broadband network, Overdrive.

"We built a platform for a broadband network and you saw how fast it rolled out everywhere else -- Turbo Nick, V Spot [VH1's version], MTV Uber, Comedy Central's Motherload and there's more coming down the pike because we scaled together," he said.

Early Web convert
Mr. Hirschhorn, a music lover whose dream growing up was to run a record label, stumbled onto the new-media field when he was a student at New York University. "One day I was walking around NYU and sauntered into computer lab and started playing with a pre-Netscape Web browser," he recalled. He taught himself HTML and was the first intern for Warner Bros. Music Service through America Online. He began designing artist Web sites for Warner Bros. -– "everyone from Madonna to Rod Stewart," he said -- and in his spare time created his own content sites, which he eventually sold to MTV.

Six years ago MTV hired him to run Sonicnet, a unit of the former MTVi and one of the top-ranked online music sites of its time, and he progressed through the digital ranks managing the VH1, CMT and Comedy Central sites before taking on larger roles within the company.

iPod and PSP
Mr. Hirschhorn said he's looking into distributing video content on such platforms as Apple's video iPod and Sony's PlayStation Portable, as well as planning to add community applications to all of MTV Networks' Web properties.

"Our strategy is simple," he said. "Put user at center of everything we do and make great entertainment -- and now that means not only programming but the applications that surround them. And from a business standpoint, create good tapered opportunities for our advertisers."

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