In a move that will increase his time commitment to AOL, former WMA chairman/CEO Jim Wiatt has stepped down from the board of directors, and moved into a new role as strategic advisor. He’s supposed to use his relationships with Hollywood talent and media companies to create new opportunities to build branded content. It is a non-exclusive gig. “The board meets 6, sometimes 8 times per year, and so Jim is moving from working 8 days a year to working 365 days a year for us,” AOL chairman/CEO Tim Armstrong told me. “It is a big benefit for us as a company. As the world continues to migrate to the web, Jim will connect us with opportunities.”
Wiatt’s primary role will be to plug AOL into media and showbiz talent as AOL develops content and creative partnerships with them that will draw targeted audiences and can serve as advertising platforms. The company has just begun those initiatives, which so far include: Cambio.com, an online network founded with The Jonas Brothers and MXG Lab to create interactive programming for the teen set; the children’s media company A Squared Entertainment; and a website venture tied to The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“There are a lot of variations, but I will use my relationships with traditional media companies, talent agencies and talent interested in working directly with the web and mobile,” Wiatt told Deadline. “The company is primed to create strategic relationships with media outlets, distributors, financiers and advertisers to help create different forms of content for multiple platforms, using the AOL infrastructure.”
Wiatt negotiating the William Morris-Endeavor merger with Ari Emanuel only to find himself odd man out right before the two companies officially became WME. Wiatt joined the AOL board shortly after. He says he spent the past year learning its business. “I was struck by the idea of what the new AOL could be, and where Tim was positioning the company,” Wiatt said. “They’ve set a course for the company that’s exciting and energizing, and they’ve redesigned it from head to toe. They want to go further into content and new media, and hopefully I’ll be able to add value.”
Wiatt, who hasn’t said much about WME since his exit, told me he is at peace with all that happened. “WME seems to be doing really well, I’ve got a lot of friends there I stay in contact with,” Wiatt said. “It is a powerful company, and doing the merger made it a stronger place, a better place for the clients. I’m happy with what they’ve done, and I’m happy with this stage of my life, working on philanthropic endeavors, and here with Tim at AOL. I’m not writing a book here, and without rehashing everything, I’m happy with the result. It was the right thing to do. The company is in really good shape, and to the extent I had something to do with that, I’m pleased.”