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ABC Veteran to Lead Yahoo Media Efforts

Times Staff Writer

Deepening its ties with Hollywood, Yahoo Inc. said Monday that it had hired the former top programmer for the ABC television network to oversee its growing media and entertainment division.

Lloyd Braun, the creative mind behind such shows as “The Sopranos” on HBO and “Lost” on ABC, is Yahoo’s highest- profile hire since the Internet pioneer tapped former Warner Bros. Chairman Terry Semel in 2001 as chief executive to steer it back to profitability after the dot-com crash.

The move signals Yahoo’s intention to become a full-fledged competitor to traditional Hollywood. It also underscores how the strategy of the Sunnyvale, Calif., company differs from those of rival search engines and Internet portals in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

“Yahoo has a lot of great technology, but they’re not first and foremost a technology company,” said Mark Mahaney, an analyst with American Technology Research. “They’re a media company, and it shows by who they hire.”

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Working in Yahoo’s Santa Monica offices, Braun will try to persuade movie, TV and music companies to distribute more of their content exclusively on Yahoo and to create original programming for the 90 million visitors to the company’s websites each month. The 46-year-old lawyer also will oversee Yahoo’s efforts in movies, games, finance, news, weather and sports, among other areas.

Braun’s last job ended badly. Walt Disney Co. ousted him as chairman of the ABC Entertainment Television Group in April as part of a management shake-up designed to jump-start the struggling division.

He had clashed repeatedly with Disney President Robert Iger over the direction and management of ABC, which had fallen to fourth place in the ratings. But two of the final shows whose development Braun oversaw -- “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” -- have turned into huge hits for ABC since his departure.

Braun began talking with Yahoo in July. He will join the company Nov. 15.

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After a career in entertainment, Braun knows next to nothing about the Internet industry, he said Monday.

“It’s probably both a blessing and a curse,” he said. “I’m going to have to get my hands dirty from Day One in terms of learning the business, then smartly navigate the waters after that.”

Braun practiced entertainment law from 1985 to 1994 before joining Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, where he helped build the company’s TV production unit and dreamed up the concept for “The Sopranos,” the Emmy Award-winning drama about a New Jersey Mafia family.

“Lloyd will be a huge asset for Yahoo,” said producer Brad Grey. “He’s a talented guy, he understands the business, and he has strong creative instincts.”

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Braun will replace Jim Moloshok, a longtime Warner Bros. executive whom Semel picked to run Yahoo’s media and entertainment group. Though his day-to-day management responsibilities were dropped in July, Moloshok continues to act as a liaison to Hollywood. He will report to Braun.

Braun will join Yahoo at a time when looking at content is rivaling e-mail, online shopping and Web searching as the most popular activity on the Internet, according to a study released Monday by the Online Publishers Assn. in New York.

“Over the next two years, you’re going to see the role of content on the Web really explode,” said Steve Weinstein, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities. “You’re really going to see Yahoo and other properties try to build up their entertainment libraries and packages for their audiences.”

Yahoo has amassed a broad portfolio of properties and services in a bid to become to the Internet what the networks are to television. The idea is that with better content, it can charge more for online ads, its primary source of revenue. Yahoo also charges for subscriptions to services including Launch and Musicmatch, its music offerings.

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The company has had a few stumbles along the way; it shuttered Yahoo Platinum, a streaming video service, last October after failing to persuade enough people to pay the $9.95 monthly subscription fee.

But Yahoo’s recent moves, including Braun’s hiring, show it’s not ready to give up.

“Yahoo is serious about expanding its presence in this area,” said Lee Gabler, a partner at Creative Artists Agency.

Semel said Monday that he was committed to seeing that through. Viewed by some in the industry as a candidate to succeed Michael Eisner as CEO of Walt Disney Co., Semel told investors at a Morgan Stanley conference: “I’m looking forward to at least the next bunch of years, I hope many, to continue doing what I’m doing.”

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Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report, and Bloomberg News was used in compiling it.


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