Jim Wiatt, former William Morris chief, expands his role helping AOL in Hollywood
Wiatt is leaving his board seat to spend most of his time as a consultant to AOL, using his clout in the media business to advise the company on creating star-branded online video content and courting advertisers.
"We're seeing a very large migration of content and talent towards digital media," said AOL's chief executive, Tim Armstrong, in an interview Wednesday. "What we're hoping to do with Jim and with AOL is speed up that migration and have AOL step in the forefront of digital content and partnerships."
After a year of cost-cutting following its split with Time Warner, AOL has been aggressively trying to reinvent itself as a primary online video and news destination. Its recent efforts include a Jonas Brothers-centric Web video portal called Cambio.com, and an online distribution partnership with "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."
"You look at companies like Google that are so powerful in delivering content and see this is really in its infancy," Wiatt said in the interview. "It's not going to be long before all forms of content are going to be available through multiple distribution systems."
"So many people are coming toward AOL already wanting to do things," he added, "it's really trying to make decisions on who are the best and brightest in making video and other kinds of content."
Armstrong said that Wiatt had been a close advisor to himself and other AOL executives over the last year, and that Wiatt's position on the board wasn't adequately taking advantage of his potential value.
"Most board members are doing six or eight meetings a year," Armstrong said. "Jim was doing six or eight meetings a week."
"It's not hard to imagine a place in the next five or 10 years where plasma TVs -- driven by an on-demand format -- are the primary way people consume media," Armstrong said. "If you look at how quickly people are moving to those kinds of services, content needs to follow."
"By announcing Jim's helping AOL, that's a space we'd really like to tackle," Armstrong said.
-- David Sarno
Photo: Jim Wiatt. Credit: AOL