The world of media commerce is mercifully becoming, even at its topmost
layers at last, more digitally literate.
The latest shift has come with the unexpected departures last week of Ross
Levinsohn as president of Fox Interactive Media – News Corp’s internet
division, which includes the social networking phenomenon MySpace.com – and
Jonathan Miller, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner’s AOL.
Both men have been replaced by more experienced executives from the
television business, reflecting the growing importance of video programming
to the big internet portals. In addition, the new hires at News Corp and
Time Warner show that both companies are installing executives with
extensive operating experience, now that a strategic vision has been mapped
At Fox it’s oddly enough a family matter. From next week, Ross Levinson is
being replaced by his distant cousin Peter Levinsohn, a 20-year News Corp
veteran who was previously the head of digital media at Fox Entertainment
Over at AOL the stakes are high. Ever since the ill-fated merger between AOL
and Time Warner, the future of AOL within the Time Warner stable – which
includes studios, cable channels, magazines and a cable business – has been
A move this year to accelerate AOL’s transition from dial-up business to
being a content-orientated portal capable of attracting large internet
audiences and a share of the growing internet advertising pie means that the
division could now have its best chance to mutate from a drag into a growth
The job of moving from rescue to rehabilitation and ever upward falls to
Randy Falco, who spent three decades in NBC’s various television businesses
and rose to number two at the network.
Falco said something that might strike dyed-in-the-wool digirati, without
long TV memories, as a bit odd. “I’m fascinated by the Internet space”, he
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
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.
Back there, Falco’s departure came amid tussles among top executives.
George Kliavkoff (formally with Major League Baseball Advanced Media, of all
interesting places) was hired in August to be NBC’s chief digital officer.
He is charged with “growing new digital businesses into significant
money-making operations”. Executives said the rapid pace of the digital
space meant there could be further staffing changes ahead.
“What people realize is that if you wait too long, you can lose your
audience”, one media executive confided ominously (and understandably
anonymously) to the Financial Times.