- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Eisner’s online gambit

Former Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner’s first investment as a venture capitalist since leaving Disney last year puts him smack dab in the middle of the TV/online revolution.

Mr. Eisner’s Tornante Co. is investing in Veoh Networks Inc., a San Diego start-up that hopes to create an Internet-based television delivery system, Associated Press reports.

The company announced Monday that it has raised $12.5 million in financing from Mr. Eisner, Spark Capital and Time Warner Inc. Mr. Eisner’s investment was not disclosed.

Mr. Eisner will take a seat on Veoh’s board along with Todd Dagres, managing partner of Spark Capital.

Veoh plans to deliver broadcast-quality programming, including both short films and more traditional, longer shows, using peer-to-peer technology. The idea is to allow both established TV networks as well as individual users to program “channels” on the service.

“Veoh enables anyone with an Internet connection to distribute and receive programming in the highest quality,” Mr. Eisner said.

Dmitry Shapiro, Veoh’s founder and chief executive, told AP his company is in talks with TV networks about distributing their content online. For now, the site offers public domain shows and movies and content contributed by users.

Mr. Eisner’s involvement is sure to help the company reach executives at large media companies, Mr. Shapiro said.

“We’d like to get the widest selection of content available,” he said. “Having Michael involved in the company gives us incredible credibility, experience and knowledge, not to mention the contacts.”

VH1’s new ‘Drug’

Who says VH1 is all about the music — and reality shows featuring Flavor Flav?

The network is teaming up with the Sundance Channel to produce an original documentary series titled “The Drug Years,” a four-part look at the rise of illicit drug use and its cultural impact in the second half of the 20th century, Reuters news agency reports.

Those who will be featured in interviews include Peter Coyote, Jackson Browne, Ray Manzarek from the Doors, Ice-T, Liz Phair, Rob Thomas, Tommy Chong, Russell Simmons, John Mellencamp and Henry Rollins. Mr. Chong alone has been doing research on the topic for years, so he must have lots of insightful information to share.

The series debuts June 12 on VH1 and encores on the Sundance Channel June 16.

Martin Torgoff is the writer and consulting producer on the series, which is based on his book “Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age.”

Schieffer stays?

The dawn of the Katie Couric era at CBS may not mean the end of veteran broadcaster Bob Schieffer’s time on the “CBS Evening News.”

The silver-haired anchor is leaning toward accepting an offer to provide commentary for the program after he’s replaced as anchor by Miss Couric in September, AP reports.

He would most likely offer commentary once or twice a week and also would be available to talk with the departing “Today Show” host on the air about big stories if he decides to go ahead.

“I kind of think this might be something fun to do,” Mr. Schieffer said, “but I want to make absolutely sure that this is what I want to do.”

His 13-month stint as evening-news anchor replacing Dan Rather has proved an unexpected boon to CBS. Though the broadcast still trails in third place behind NBC and ABC, it’s the only one that has gained viewers over the past year. The plainspoken Mr. Schieffer, 69, has drawn much of the credit.

The idea to give Mr. Schieffer a role in a Couric-anchored broadcast, first reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, could help ensure a smooth transition by reassuring his admirers he’s not being rudely cast aside.

It also could further set CBS apart from its competitors. Although there’s a history of commentary on evening news broadcasts — from such notable newsmen as John Chancellor, Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith — it hasn’t been done for several years on any of the three networks.

Mr. Schieffer, who said he’ll decide over the summer, provides commentary on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” program. He’s also rethinking his overall retirement plans. He was considering leaving the business when he turned 70 next February.

“With all the excitement that Katie has created by coming over here, it really has rekindled some of my competitive juices,” he said. “I think it would be fun to be part of this.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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