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MTV online exec back in the groove

MTV Networks Online's new president Fred Seibert is no stranger to Viacom's music ventures, and his expertise will be called on as the firm tackles two new online projects.

The new president of Viacom's MTV Networks Online division is intimately familiar with starting up new ventures for the media giant's music arm.

Fred Seibert, who assumes his new post today, also was the original creative director for the MTV cable channel, which launched in 1981.

Seibert is rejoining the company--following a five-year stint as president of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons and some entrepreneurial ventures--about a month after Viacom announced a big Net push involving two projects aimed at broadening its music and children's offerings online.

Part of Seibert's new role will be shepherding those projects through launch. The children's venture, with the working title "Project Nozzle," is scheduled to go live in September. The new music site, known by working title the "Buggles Project," is due to launch in June, according to Viacom. Seibert also will oversee development of the company's current sites such as MTV.com and Nick.com.

Viacom is keeping its online strategy similar to that of its cable stations, by creating brands directed at vertical markets instead of trying to gather its disparate audience under one umbrella. Some of its offline media brethren have gone the other way, however, launching large "destination" sites that aim to appeal to a mass audience--such as Disney's Go Network, for example.

"We decided to follow the same strategy that we have used on television--a vertical strategy," Viacom chief executive Sumner Redstone told CNET News.com in an earlier interview.

MTV Networks chief executive Tom Freston echoed that theme. "Portals are about so many things," he said when Viacom announced its initiative. Viacom would rather "'super-serve' one audience at a time" than try to appeal to everyone at one site, he added.

Both spaces in which Viacom is expanding are already crowded with high-profile competitors. In the music space, for example, the Buggles Project will have to contend with Tunes.com, the music hub launched earlier this month by JamTV, which operates the Rolling Stone Network along with a host of other music sites.

And the children's space also is packed. Disney just yesterday relaunched its popular site, adding many features for free that previously were part of its paid subscription service for children.

But Seibert is undaunted, in spite of the fact that Tunes.com has already launched and is building its audience. "Everyone [in this space] is a competitor, and anything that can distract [users'] attention is a competitor," he said. "I can't look over my shoulder."

He attributed the success of sites such as Amazon.com not to being first, but to being good at what they do.

"If you create great products people love, they will keep coming back," he said. "Creating great products is the way to win in this business."