Jim Wiatt takes advisor role at AOL
Will spend more time on driving content, creatives onlineNEW YORK -- Former William Morris chairman and CEO Jim Wiatt is changing his role at AOL to spend more time advising chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong on content initiatives, including content development and creative partnerships.
Wiatt is stepping down from the AOL board to take the new role of strategic advisor, effective immediately, while also continuing his other consulting work.
The move, which will allow Wiatt to work on AOL business regularly rather than just doing board meetings several times a year, comes as AOL is looking to shepherd the continuing move of creatives to the digital space, Armstrong and Wiatt said.
Working from New York and L.A., he will work on expanding AOL's development of content, partnerships and relationships across the entertainment and media sectors.
"We are still in the beginning stages of content opportunities on the Internet and social networks," Wiatt told The Hollywood Reporter. "And we are looking at how this will all translate to mass audiences and advertiser relationships." He said he will use his talent, creative and industry relationships, but wouldn't discuss specific names of people or companies that could work with AOL in the future.
The agency veteran joined AOL's first post-Time Warner merger board last fall together with other big media and entertainment names, such as former CBS Corp. CFO Fred Reynolds, former FCC chairman Michael Powell and Paley Center boss Patricia Mitchell.
Wiatt has been a key adviser already on all things content, particularly entertainment content, which Armstrong has made a top priority.
For example, late last year, Armstrong told THR that entertainment content is "key" before pointing at Wiatt and adding: "That's why we have him on our board" (HR 12/9).
"He was really helpful on the board, but we wanted him in more of a full-time role," Armstrong told The Hollywood Reporter. "He has helped us figure out the right process and structure for enabling more digital migration of talent and content."
Wiatt said that one key hurdle for creatives to move from the offline to the online world remain questions of how to structure deals and get paid. "One of the biggest concerns remains the economic model to make it more appealing to migrate online," he told THR. But he and Armstrong both pointed to recent AOL arrangements that entertainment folks can make things work.
For example, the company recently founded Cambio, a new online network combining original programming with interactivity to offer "entertainment 2.0" for teens, with The Jonas Group and MGX Lab. AOL is also working with A Squared Entertainment, a children's media company formed by industry veterans Andy Heyward and Amy Moynihan, to create "purpose-driven entertainment brands" for children featuring iconic personalities including Warren Buffett, Gisele Bundchen and Martha Stewart. And earlier this week, AOL and Telepictures Productions announced a content and promotional partnership for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
AOL has particularly focused on branded entertainment, local content and its own online content brands, such as Engadget and Moviefone.
Wiatt has worked as an independent consultant since June 2009.