Ricky Van Veen is branching out from CollegeHumor — but not entirely.
The co-founder and former editor of the online comedy hotspot recently became CEO of Notional, a new multimedia production company backed by Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp. (Diller owns Connected Ventures, parent company of CollegeHumor and now Notional.)
Van Veen says he’s “still very focused on building the CollegeHumor brand and keeping it strong.” In two weeks, about 80 CollegeHumor staffers will move to the IAC building in West Chelsea, from their previously separate offices near Union Square — where they had been able to work (and goof around) with minimal adult supervision.
“We’re gonna be sharing a lot — production resources and talent resources and that sort of thing — and I think that’s the goal, to have everything come together and be fluid.”
Notional — spun out of CollegeHumor — aims to create engaging, low-cost video content across platforms and genres. Dave Noll, former boss at City Lights Media, is president and brings expertise in TV production; as CEO, Van Veen offers an appealing mix of a goofy-smart sensibility and Internet savvy.
Van Veen talked to The Business Insider about Notional, IAC colleague Ben Silverman and his future assistant, who just so happens to be Anna Wintour’s daughter.
- The name: “An easy question is, ‘Well, why didn’t you guys just call it CollegeHumor Productions’? And the simple answer is because we want to produce all genres. For example, it’s hard to walk into Lifetime with College humour Productions. It seems like a harder place to start from, so we called it Notional, which allowed us to broaden our horizons and do a lot more varied programming. So I’d say: Notional is a production company with the DNA of an Internet company that makes content for everything.”
- The TV lineup: Notional’s programming roster includes Food Network’s “Chopped” and HGTV’s “Don’t Sweat It.” Other programs in the works are “Ready, Set, Dance!”, a dance-competition series, and “Love Taxi,” a taxicab-based dating show that has been picked up for global distribution by Fremantle Media (which produces “American Idol” and its international spinoffs). The company has an eye on game-show formats. “If you have a great idea that can translate elsewhere, then that’s where the scaleability comes in — and that’s where you can actually start to make real money,” says Van Veen. “So we’re going to be doing comedies and scripted and other shows, but the game shows work well because we’ve had experience there and they’re also the most scaleable.”
- Ben Silverman has that certain something: The former NBC exec is launching his own IAC branded-entertainment operation, named Electus. “He and I have been working very closely and he’s doing a lot of huge and impressive things in kind of different but complementary areas to what Notional’s doing,” says Van Veen. “He and I are teamed up to kind of lead this effort for IAC. Super excited to be working with him.” Silverman recently hosted a party for Notional, and “all eyes were on him, he just had this energy — so I’m sure I’ll be living under his shadow for a while but it’s a great shadow to be under,” he says.
- Working with Bee Shaffer: The daughter of Vogue editrix Wintour begins her new gig as Van Veen’s assistant on Monday. “She’ll be a great addition to the team. She’s really sharp and well organised and … those are the exact qualities that you want to find in your assistant,” he says.
- So young, so successful: “You say ‘young executive’ but I’m like the oldest person at my company! Over here I’m like the old guy! The perks? You know, at IAC, if you have the appetite of a 28-year-old, there’s enough free food to satiate you!”
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