Born in San Francisco in 1942, Barry Diller began his career at the William Morris Agency. He moved into programming at ABC, popularizing the TV miniseries. At Twentieth Century-Fox in 1986, he launched the Fox Broadcasting Company, the first new network to hit television in decades. Diller then amassed a media empire, including multiple cable channels, Ticketmaster and internet companies.
Who invited Barry Diller to the Internet party? In the hip, young world of Internet start-ups, media mogul Barry Diller, owner of the Home Shopping and USA Networks, the Sci-Fi Channel and Ticketmaster, is sometimes regarded as an interloper. But Diller's innovative spirit, which helped invent the television miniseries and launched the brash young Fox Television Network when no one thought a fourth network was possible, is now hard at work integrating old and new media into a commerce empire.
Born in San Francisco, in 1942, Diller grew up in Los Angeles and claims he rarely attended classes on Mondays or Fridays at Beverly Hills High School.He dropped out of UCLA after four months, but his friend Marlo Thomas helped him get a job in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency. Three years later, Diller was a full-fledged talent agent. In 1966, he became a programming assistant at ABC and steadily rose to the position of vice president. Along the way, he invented the made-for-TV movie and launched the TV miniseries Roots. In 1974, he took a job as chairman and chief executive of Paramount Studios and turned the flagging company around with hits including Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
Creation of the Fox Network
In 1984, he joined Twentieth Century-Fox where he created the Fox Television Network, which changed the television landscape by attracting a young, male audience with shows like The Simpsons and Married with Children. Diller, known for his tough-talking, volatile personality, left the company in 1992 after having a falling out with Rupert Murdoch (owner of Fox's parent company). Later that year, Diller bought shopping channel QVC, and also tried to purchase Paramount and later CBS, losing both bids. In 1995, Diller began amassing his own media empire, becoming chairman of the Home Shopping Network, and acquiring USA and the Sci-Fi Channel. In 1997, he became part owner of Ticketmaster. The following year, he merged Ticketmaster's online arm with Citysearch, a provider of local online city guides. The combination transformed Citysearch into an e-commerce venture, and the combined company, called Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch, went public in 1999.
Diller continued his online expansion as Citysearch acquired two online dating sites, a job listing service, and created CityAuction to satisfy the growing demand for online auctions. Meanwhile, in early 1999, he made a dramatic bid for Lycos, in a move that promised to create a powerful cross-media empire. Television promotion and Lycos' high traffic levels would lure Web surfers to the company's commerce offerings, while the Websites promoted Diller's television properties, including shows like Jerry Springer and Xena Warrior Princess.
Fierce resistance to the uninvited Internet guest on the part of Lycos' shareholders, however, torpedoed the deal several months after it was announced. Nevertheless, even without a major portal site, Diller's prowess at combining content and commerce, demonstrated with the success of the Home Shopping Network, seems well suited to the new media world, and he shows no signs of easing up his quest to meld old and new media into one empire.
To date, Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch's integrated family of sites includes Ticketmaster Online, Citysearch, Match.com, CityAuction, LiveDaily (an entertainment news site), and Astro Abby (an astrology site). In August 2000, Diller negotiated a $500 million merger of the e-commerce enabler Styleclick.com with USA's Internet Shopping Network.
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