Hollywood: Microsoft goes where Yahoo! fears to tread

We were surprised to read the New York Timeslaundry list of expensive Hollywood-produced Web “pilots” comissioned by Microsoft today. And even more surpirsed reality TV guru Ben Silverman is behind it.

“The one-year, multimillion-dollar deal calls for the creation of 10 Web pilots for MSN, each tailored to one or more strengths of the Web. Four shows have already been given the go-ahead, including a short-form comedy that can be described, in classic high-concept Hollywood style, as “The Office” meets “Reno 911” meets “Airplane,” doled out in two-and-a-half minute bits starting this fall. Adding to the sitcom verisimilitude: Tom Arnold is close to signing on to star as the lovably flawed pilot for a commuter airline.”

For one thing, ever since “Soul Plane,” anytime we hear that Tom Arnold is working, we get nervous.

But for another, it flies in the face of conventional wisdom about how to best exploit Hollywood on the web. Take for example, March’s about-face by ex-ABC programming guru Lloyd Braun,

“I didn’t fully appreciate what success in this medium is really going to look like,” he said. “This is not about creating one-off hits like in my old business. That is not going to create a sustainable competitive advantage over the long term…I now get excited about user-generated content the way I used to get excited about thinking about what television shows would work.”

So for those who are confused by this, a recap: The guy who used to program ABC has been hired to take Yahoo! in the direction of YouTube, while Microsoft‘s MSN is trying to be more like ABC.

I guess this is what they mean by “convergence”?