The right TV-Web mix

Jul 15, 2002  •  Post A Comment

When William Corbin graduated from the University of Maine he thought he wanted to go into politics. So he went to work for the now-retired Maine Sen. William Cohen. But the pace was way too slow for a young man who loved high-speed computers. “Things never seemed to get done fast,” Mr. Corbin said.
The senator’s press secretary noted Mr. Corbin’s frustration and suggested that maybe he was in the wrong business. So at the press secretary’s urging and with his help, Mr. Corbin took a chance and got a job as a page with CBS Television. It was the right move.
Ten years later he is VP of interactive production for A&E Television Networks, overseeing all the content, design, production and marketing for AETN’s consumer Web sites, including AandE.com, HistoryChannel.com and Biography.com. Not bad for someone who just turned 34.
Mr. Corbin credits Meredith Stark, former executive director of CBS NewMedia Group and now a consultant with Gartner Group, for launching his career. Ms. Stark first noticed him when he was a page and she was director of news products. When she took over new media and was charged with building CBS’s new Web site, the first person she added to the team was Mr. Corbin, who had moved to Fox as a news producer. “She told me that I was the first person she had ever heard say the word `Internet,”’ Mr. Corbin said.
Since then online media has come a long way. The best thing about working for A&E, Mr. Corbin said, is the sophisticated appreciation of how effective integrated media can be. “In the early stages nobody got it,” he said. “Then everybody wanted it, but not very many people knew how to use it. Now it’s not so frenetic, but not very many people can figure out an ROI. A&E gets the power of it, and they understand the proper use of it and what really draws people to the site.”
A&E is equally appreciative of Mr. Corbin’s abilities. “We’re thrilled to have William heading up our interactive division, as he brings exactly the right mix of pure TV and dot-com experience, which will allow us to further align our brand in content initiatives to continue attracting new and younger viewers, to all of our media outlets,” said Bill Harris, senior VP production and network operations.
Mr. Corbin said the next big challenge for the industry is incorporating the power of interactive television and video-on-demand into the total consumer package. At A&E, “We’ve been sitting back, watching how they test out,” he said. “Now as it reaches critical mass, we’re about ready to pick up what we think is going to be important going forward.”
For him personally, the job will include upholding A&E’s high standard of quality. “If you want to know anything about history, you turn to the History Channel. If you want to know anything about a person, you turn to Biography. It’s the ultimate resource. I want to make sure that our online brand is just as well respected,” Mr. Corbin said.
Mr. Corbin is just as passionate about animals as he is about television. In his spare time, he’s an active volunteer with International Fund for Animal Welfare, which assists animals in distress. Mr. Corbin has special sympathy for ailing animals. His Labrador retriever Macwa was such a favored pet that the dog used to go to work with him. A few months ago, Macwa died of leukemia. The past few weekends, Mr. Corbin, who is single and lives in Connecticut, has been touring animal shelters in search of a new dog-one he can rescue. “I want to save the whales and save the puppies,” he said.