AOL CEO Calls New Content Head Susan Lyne A 'Game-Changing Player'

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"We just picked up another game-changing player." That is how AOL chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong on Monday described the addition last week of former ABC Entertainment and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Susan Lyne to his executive team as CEO of the online company's content brands other than Huffington Post.

Speaking at the Deutsche Bank 2013 Media, Internet & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., he said that as AOL's largest individual shareholder, he sleeps well at night knowing Lyne is in charge. After all, she is one of about 10-20 people in the world "who have the experience of understanding content, commerce and programming at the level Susan does," he said.

Asked if her hiring would change AOL's content strategy, Armstrong said no. "I think it is going to enhance it," he explained. AOL.com and its properties are a big area of possible upside for her, as is mobile usage, he added.

AOL needs to make and can still make "significant progress" on the programming side under Lyne's leadership, he said. "We need to be the world's best content company." While typically he sends his key executives detailed notes on what issues to tackle, Armstrong said Lyne "sent me a detailed email about what needs to get fixed." He emphasized that she has gotten to learn much about AOL's businesses as a board member for several years.

The AOL boss also touted the broader strength of his executive team. "There is a real team behind the company," he said. "In every chair, we have we have the strongest people that we can get in their field."

Discussing the advertising outlook, Armstrong said that ad trends look positive for this year, with digital trends again looking stronger than momentum in other media. AOL expects ad growth in 2013, he said.

He also predicted continued video usage upside and predicted that in the network upfront ad selling season, "more and more money [will] be moved to digital" in integration with TV spending.

Armstrong on Monday also signaled no immediate interest in any major acquisitions.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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