New AOL Video Head: We're Going to Take Risks

Significant Leadership Change at AOL for Second Time in Two Months

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AOL's video division is going through a shuffle at the top.

Out is Ran Harnevo who, after serving in the role for four years, said today in a blog post he's ready to get back to startup life. Replacing him is Dermot McCormack, who most recently served as head of Viacom Music and Logo's Connected Content Group. He told Ad Age that under his watch, AOL's video division will push the envelope. "We are going to try some different things," he said.

Dermot McCormack
Dermot McCormack

The shakeup is significant as AOL's future is staked on three pillars: online video, ad-tech and premium content. Mr. Harnevo's departure comes soon after Susan Lyne's departure. She ran the company's brand group until last month.

Ad Age spoke to Mr. McCormack after he was named to the position, asking him how he plans to run AOL's 200-person division.

You had a pretty good job at Viacom, why leave for AOL?
I think television is a wonderful business, and it will probably evolve more over the next couple of years than any time in its history. AOL is in a great position to be part of that new innovative story of content creation as it evolves across new platforms, devices and attains new attributes like interactivity and social connection.

What specifically puts AOL in a great position compared to its competitors?
A lot of companies today have evolved from tech-focused companies into media companies or traditional media companies who have had to develop technologies. AOL is a company that seems to be beginning the hybrid approach to advertising, content creation and distribution in a new way. They're lean, they have gone through evolutions and really act more like a startup as opposed to established companies protecting their existing business.

What risks will you take?
A lot of existing digital players that wanted to become content powerhouses basically hired television people to create television programming. We think that the television companies or the established big media companies are very good at creating that type of programming, and they spend lots and lots of money. I also know it's very difficult, it's very hard to get a hit. We need to decide which lane we are going to compete in and then we're probably going to have to take some risks in terms of what type of content we want to put out there, how we want to tell a story in a different way. It won't be traditional. Some of it hopefully won't be like what you've seen before.

In a tweet you thanked Ran for giving you good "field position" what is the end zone for you? How will you get there?

While not easy, to me it's pretty straightforward what's a win. The wins are: we've created content that people are aware of, that people are talking about; we've entered into the cultural conversation, that people know what we're making and respond to it; and the advertising community responds and the corresponding revenue growth occurs.

You're going to be overseeing a significant team in Tel Aviv, how's your Hebrew?
My Hebrew is not great but my understanding of working with groups from Israel over the last 20 years of my career has been great. I'm very respectful of the type of products and technology and the minds that come out of places like Tel Aviv.

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