POP.com taps Wong for new ‘Net b’caster

Ex-Imagineering exec to head online comedy venture

Kenneth P. Wong, former prexy of Walt Disney Imagineering, has been tapped chairman and CEO of POP.com, the yet-to-launch comedy-themed Internet broadcasting venture formed by Imagine Entertainment and DreamWorks SKG.

The appointment, effective immediately, ends weeks of industry-wide speculation over who POP.com’s co-founders Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Vulcan Ventures’ Paul Allen would tap to fill the top spot.

The four unveiled plans for the site in November and names have been flying ever since — Warner Bros. Online’s Jim Bannister and Sony Pictures Entertainment’s co-prexy and chief operating officer Bob Wynne were rumored to be candidates.

But the industry-wide anticipation has been unusual, considering POP.com has yet to launch and still exists merely as a high concept.

Still skedded to bow in the spring, POP.com so far has been described as a Web site that will broadcast six-minute, original live-action and animated comedy shorts online, produced by and featuring A-list talent. It will also feature live Webcasts and interactive games.

The site could, however, begin broadcasting shorts earlier than expected, Imagine’s Grazer said. It may also include editorial content such as reviews and articles “visualizing where things are going in this space.”

Both Howard and Spielberg have said they will create original programming for POP.com. Allen has already earmarked $50 million.

“This site will not be something that’s a smaller version of your TV,” Wong told Daily Variety. “It will be more compelling than that. The fact that they (Imagine, DreamWorks) were interested in me means they are interested in figuring this thing out. They do not see the Internet as solely an extension of something that they do.”

At Disney Imagineering, Wong oversaw the daily duties at the research and development arm responsible for creating resorts and theme parks, including new venues Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tokyo DisneySea, Times Square Studios, Disney’s California Adventure and Disney cruise ships. He ankled the post in November to spend a year with his family in semi-retirement.

Wong joined Disney in 1991 as a senior veep for the Disney Development Co., before it merged with Imagineering. There, he headed West coast growth initiatives, including the multibillion-dollar expansion of the Disneyland Resort. He became prexy in 1995.

Although Wong has little experience with the Internet, Katzenberg told Daily Variety the company was looking for someone “that didn’t come from traditional Hollywood but could relate to traditional Hollywood.”

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