Randy Falco Named Chairman-CEO of AOL

Was President-COO of NBC Universal Television Group

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After a day of widespread speculation, Time Warner announced last night that Randy Falco, president-chief operating officer of NBC Universal Television Group, has been appointed chairman-CEO of AOL.
Randy Falco has been named chairman-CEO of AOL.
Randy Falco has been named chairman-CEO of AOL.

The announcement was made jointly by Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons and President-Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Bewkes.

Jon Miller's departure uncertain
It's unclear from the announcement exactly when outgoing AOL CEO Jon Miller will leave the company. He was quoted in the release as saying: "Rarely do you come into an organization with as many challenges as AOL faced when I arrived and then have the great satisfaction of putting it on sound footing. I've had that opportunity at AOL over the past four years, and I'm proud of what we've accomplished."

The most recent and perhaps significant change in AOL's long (by internet standards) history is its recent decision to shed its subscription model in favor of an ad-supported business. The early results are positive: While revenue declined at AOL during third quarter, the unit didn't decline as much as expected and, indeed, increased ad revenue at a greater-than-expected rate.

TV background is key
Mr. Falco's charge at AOL will be to continue to grow the unit's revenue through business development and video content deals. AOL has arguably the most sophisticated video play of all the major portals, so it's not likely a coincidence that Mr. Falco comes from the TV world.

Mr. Falco had recently spearheaded a new venture internally at NBC Universal called the National Broadband Company, which aimed to establish an ad-supported video-sharing joint venture between a number of outside partners, including About.com and CNet.

Mr. Falco had been in the running to succeed NBC Universal Chairman Bob Wright, but was passed over when Jeff Zucker was promoted around a year ago to NBC Universal TV Group CEO. The arrival of Beth Comstock, as NBC Universal's president-digital media, may have also removed a key role that Mr. Falco may have wanted.

Can close the deal
And Mr. Falco has what is clearly going to be an important trait for internet execs going forward: the ability to close content deals. His career highlights at NBC Universal, for example, include COO of the network group's Olympics broadcast from 1992-2002. Putting Mr. Falco in charge at AOL should also dispel, at least for awhile, the ever-circulating rumors that Time Warner may be interested in selling off the unit.
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