Friendster has hired longtime television executive Scott Sassa to be CEO and president, in a move to reclaim the company's title as online social-networking captain amid rising competition in the market. Friendster founder and former CEO Jonathan Abrams will remain company chairman. Sassa, who has been president of NBC Entertainment for the last three years, was brought in to run the company by top-shelf venture capitalists Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital, which invested nearly $10 million in Friendster last fall. Though Friendster helped jump-start the social-networking phenomenon last year, inspiring nearly 7 million people to create profiles and link to friends and friends of friends online, it has faced massive competition from emerging rivals, including Google's Orkut.com, Tickle, Lycos and many others. The site has been steadily losing traffic since last year. In April, it drew 1 million unique visitors, compared to 1.7 million last October, according to market researcher comScore Media Metrix.
Sassa, who has also held executive positions at Turner Broadcasting System, where he launched the cable channels TNT, the Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies, said he plans to build a major consumer brand from Friendster. "This is not an enterprise software play, this is about providing people with a better way to spend their free time. Friendster is about being able to discover new things through people you trust."