Given the stream of Southern California entertainment industry executives working for Yahoo, the Internet company might have been tempted to consider lifting the fabled Hollywood sign from its hillside perch and dropping it down in Sunnyvale, its Silicon Valley home. In a bit of serendipity, the online pioneer instead has decided to base its media group in Santa Monica -- appropriately enough, in the office complex formerly known as MGM Plaza.
What better way for a tech-savvy outfit to steep itself in Hollywood tradition than by locating its burgeoning television, entertainment and movie division in a storied studio’s former headquarters? For all the late-1990s talk of convergence, Silicon Valley and Hollywood have been at odds in recent years, and Lloyd Braun, the former head of ABC network television who now runs Yahoo’s entertainment and media operations, seems to understand the dangers of having the state’s North and South carry on like the Hatfields and McCoys.
Online content providers like Yahoo could prove to be the peacemakers over time, as they can relate to both sides of the state’s schism -- navigating between tech titans to the north and the Hollywood studios in the south. But in the short run, we won’t hold our breath, at least not until a lot more blood gets spilled in the battle over peer-to-peer networks that allow consumers to share -- both legally and illegally -- music, movies and more.
Though Yahoo describes itself as an Internet company, its top management is tilted heavily toward entertainment. When it needed a chairman and chief executive in 2001, Yahoo turned to Terry Semel, who spent 24 years at MGM. Semel in turn has recruited a gaggle of Hollywood veterans, most recently Braun, who helped to develop ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and also worked at the Brillstein-Gray talent agency.
Along the way, Yahoo also recruited a prize-winning rocket scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That fact, too, is symbolic because it points to Southern California’s core strength -- creativity. Silicon Valley and Hollywood are not on the verge of merging, but Yahoo is wise to establish a southern beachfront.