updated 11/21/2006 6:47:00 PM ET 2006-11-21T23:47:00

The incoming head of AOL said Tuesday he left a 31-year career at NBC for the chance to transform the online business into a formidable rival to television and other traditional media.

Randy Falco said he’ll start Monday as AOL LLC’s chairman and chief executive after being lured last week from NBC Universal Television Group, where he was president and chief operating officer.

(MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal News.)

“I’m fascinated by the Internet space,” Falco told The Associated Press. “I see it as a very exciting environment to be in. It reminds me a lot about network television 30 years ago. It’s a little bit like the Wild West. There aren’t a lot of rules. That’s what excites me about it.”

He said online advertising should grow 20 percent to 30 percent a year industrywide, drawing dollars that might normally go to traditional media, including his former employer.

Falco, 52, replaces Jonathan Miller, who is leaving AOL following the surprise executive shuffle by AOL parent Time Warner Inc.

On Tuesday, Time Warner named its senior vice president of operations, Ron Grant, as AOL’s president and chief operating officer, a new position. Grant, 40, also starts Monday.

Falco and Grant join AOL less than four months after Time Warner announced that following years of decline in AOL’s core Internet access business, the company would give away AOL.com e-mail accounts, software and other features once reserved for paying customers in a more aggressive chase for advertising dollars.

Although Time Warner executives had been supportive of Miller’s efforts to set AOL on a new course, they sought someone with operational experience to execute the plan.

Unlike Miller, who previously worked for a company that provided information and Internet services, Falco has no direct experience with an online company, having worked in television — specifically at NBC — since graduating from college in 1975.

But Falco, granting interviews to media organizations for the first time since his appointment, said “everybody in traditional media suddenly has online experience. If you don’t you quickly get left behind.”

At NBC, owned by General Electric Co., Falco said he helped create the network’s Olympics site and forge a partnership between Yahoo Inc. and NBC’s Spanish-language Telemundo.

Falco said he does not expect any major changes in personnel or strategy at AOL, adding that his initial duties will be to make sure the existing team at AOL is focused and on message.

AOL “employed the right strategy going forward ... (and) has nothing but upside,” Falco said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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