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Former Yahoo Kerns to Head Chernin Group's Digital Unit in SV

A big name in Silicon Valley to bolster a big name in Hollywood.

The Chernin Group has hired former Yahoo top exec Mike Kerns as president of its digital unit, in another effort to knit Hollywood and Silicon Valley more closely together.

As part of the deal, Kerns will be opening a Northern California office in San Francisco for the wide-ranging entertainment company that is perhaps best known for making hit movies such as “Spy” and the revival of the “Planet of the Apes” franchise.

But the Chernin Group has also made a number of big bets in the tech arena, including the purchase of Fullscreen and Crunchyroll, as well as making a range of investments in startups like Pandora, SoundCloud, Flipboard and Medium.

In an interview, Kerns said he planned to expand those efforts. “I think we have a pretty important platform to buy companies, start companies, invest in companies,” he said. “We can create a unique bridge between Los Angeles and San Francisco, as a strong independent in a world of big companies on one hand and startups on the another.”

Kerns certainly knows both, having run vast swathes of Yahoo’s content products, including its powerful homepage and verticals, as its SVP of product. He was deeply involved in its efforts to expand video there, but left the Internet giant earlier this year. Yahoo had bought his last startup, Citizen Sports, five years ago.

In his new job, Kerns will also join the board of directors of Otter Media, the Chernin Group’s video venture with AT&T, perhaps the most meaningful of partnerships for the company (and also, well, the provider of moneybags and mobile distribution).

“We have meaningfully accelerated TCG’s digital presence and sphere of investment activities over the past few years,” said Chernin Group majordomo Peter Chernin in a statement. “[Kerns] has a proven, multi-disciplined track record which has become increasingly important to our company, current holdings and future growth.”

Kerns noted that the Chernin Group network in Silicon Valley is already strong — Chernin is on the boards of both Twitter and Pandora. But having a presence here in a more significant way means that “we can be more proactive in investing and acquire more businesses to help build out one of the most substantive video platforms out there now.”

Kerns declined to talk much about how it compares with work he did in the arena at Yahoo — which has also tried to push hard into the online video area, as has AOL, Google, Amazon, Apple and all media giants.

“I would assess my tenure there very positively, although there were obviously very tumultuous times,” said Kerns, who arrived when Carol Bartz was CEO. “But we were very impressed with Otter, for sure.”

Of the wider race to dominate in the online video space, he added, “the race is to connect digital with content and [the Chernin Group] has demonstrated a big commitment to do that.”

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