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Viacom ups Horowitz to New Media chief

Viacom named Edward Horowitz the chairman and chief exec of New Media and Interactive Television, marking the fifth key exec move in the last week as it tries to make up for time lost during its more than five-month battle for Paramount.

Horowitz, who received the additional title of senior veepee for technology, will take charge of Viacom New Media — an interactive software concern — and Paramount Technology Group, which creates new media products and handles third-party investments and partnerships.

Formerly the chief exec of Viacom Broadcasting, Horowitz will also run Paramount’s licensing and merchandising business andoversee Viacom Radio and MGS , an ad distribution service.

In an interview, Horowitz said his first plan is to make the rounds and get to know his new colleagues on the Par side.

“Our challenge is to do the best we can. We will be making sure that the brands we have throughout the corporation get optimized. We’ll get those rights where we don’t have them and (use) them where we do,” he said by telephone from Las Vegas. “I believe in managing by walking around.”

A big challenge Horowitz faces is the development of Viacom’s interactive television unit’s test system in Castro Valley, Calif., which is scheduled to come on line with at least a thousand users around the “end of the year-ish,” according to Horowitz.

“We are putting a series of proposals together to determine what kind of services we want to try out there,” Horowitz said. “The research folks have been doing a lot of work talking to consumers so that when we do deploy the boxes, it reflects American society.”

Last week, Viacom appointed Thomas Dooley executive vice president for finance and development, while Philippe Dauman nabbed the same title for law, administration and government affairs. Jonathan Dolgen left Sony to head up Viacom’s Entertainment Group and Kerry McCluggage took over the television operations. All, including Horowitz, will report to Viacom president and CEO Frank Biondi.

The slew of highly publicized appointments has reassured investors that Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone is intent on getting back to business and has also drawn attention away from discontented Blockbuster Entertainment shareholders, who have threatened to undo the video chain’s planned merger with Viacom. The deal price is based on the Viacom Class A and B shares (mostly B) and has dropped substantially from $ 31 on Jan. 7, the day the deal was announced.

Wall Street views

While Wall Street appears pleased with the new management picks — Viacom Class B stock has climbed for the past four trading days — disgruntled Blockbuster investors say that doesn’t mean they will give in on the merger issue.

“Is Viacom-Paramount a better company for these people going in? Will there be an impact from them? Yes. When? Probably two years,” said one major shareholder. “But our job is to get the top price now. Getting the top price three years from now is not the same as getting (it) now.” Viacom Class B shares ended the session up 38 cents at $ 28.75, while Blockbuster shares closed down 18 cents at $ 26.

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