Universal has tapped Jay Samit to serve as VP of its new-media division. He joins the studio from Jasmine Multimedia, which he founded in 1981.

Samit will oversee development of new content for the Internet, and will work directly with various divisions across the studio.

He reports to Universal New Media president Paul Rioux.

“You have to look at what can be done in online media that can’t be done in any other,” Samit said. ” ‘Community’ is an overused term, but it applies to what we want to do here: Put people together to share a common experience. It’s analogous to the way you watch movies. It’s a much different experience to watch a movie at a drive-in or on homevideo, than to sit in a theater with a crowd of other people, who are all reacting to the film at the same time.”

Universal rolled out its new media division in April, at a time when other Hollywood studios’ interactive divisions already had launched. In some cases, studios already had folded new media units by the time Universal announced.

“That gave us an advantage,” Rioux said Friday. “We started with a clean slate and went forward. We didn’t have a vested interest in capitalizing things we’d started several years ago, then realized weren’t going in the right direction.”

Universal New Media developed the vidgame Crash Bandicoot for Sony’s PlayStation platform, and on Friday launched a Christmas-themed Internet site.

In addition to his work at Jasmine, Samit was a member of the White House’s Initiative for Education & Technology, a committee formed to bring the Internet into classrooms.

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