The partnership highlights the trend for convergence between computer technology and entertainment that comes amid studies that show some TV watchers are migrating to the Web for their nightly entertainment. This shift in audience habits has some network executives worried. America Online executives, for example, have said that on some nights more people log on to its network between 9 and 10 p.m. than watch the Larry King Show, making the online service another "cable channel for mainstream America."
"This deal [between Yahoo and NBC] is yet another example of giving consumers what they want in the worlds of television and new media," said Edmond Sanctis, senior vice president and general manager for NBC Digital Productions. "We will get lots of NBC stars communicating directly with more of their fans at NBC Live on Yahoo Chat."
For search engine companies, alliances like these offer a way to differentiate their products in an increasingly crowded market. "Yahoo Chat continues to build a range of entertaining features to appeal to our broad, diverse audience," said Ellen Siminoff, director of communities for Yahoo.
Yahoo's stock gained over ten percent in trading today to close at a record high of 48-1/2, up from yesterday's close of 44. More than 1 million shares traded hands.
NBC will devote on-air time to publicize the live chats, and Yahoo will promote the chats on its Web page. Advertising will be sold on the NBC Live area by Yahoo and by NBC Interactive's advertising and client marketing division.
The two companies will kick off their service this Saturday night with an "all-star" chat. It will include movie stars from the network's upcoming fall season, including cast members from Jenny, Veronica's Closet, Sleepwalkers, and Built to Last, among others.
NBC Live chats will occur twice weekly on Monday through Thursday nights, from "wherever NBC's stars choose to be"--limousines, buses, subways, or show sets.