James A. Warner, 44, a former president of CBS Television Network, will in his new post have responsibility for specialty consumer and technical/trade magazines, and such related activities as new media, joint ventures and licensing.
The position of Primedia president has been vacant since the death last summer of Harry McQuillan.
Mr. Warner's appointment surprised the magazine industry, since his background is all in TV and Primedia has so many different types of publishing businesses under one umbrella.
"We were looking for someone with an overall media and management background," explained Chairman-CEO William F. Reilly, "which is what he has [attained] at the fairly young age of 44."
Finding someone who knew the ins and outs of magazines was not as important a criterion, especially because of the diversity of publishing businesses Primedia has amassed.
Mr. Reilly noted that most publishing executives either have consumer or trade experience, and choose to specialize in one over the other. But Primedia needed someone who could manage a broad range of businesses, which is why media background and management skills became the overriding qualities needed for the job.
"We have a concept around here of looking for the best all-around `athlete,' and Jim Warner just happens to be the best man," said Mr. Reilly, who added that management felt it had "plenty of folks with specific magazine expertise already here in-house."
When Mr. Warner starts his job Feb. 4, he will oversee consumer books Seventeen, New York, Chicago, Modern Bride, Soap Opera Digest and American Baby. Soon into his tenure, however, he will start overseeing 164 specialty titles and 29 trade shows, when the deal to acquire the Cowles Enthusiast and Cowles Business Media units from McClatchy Newspapers is completed March 31.
That deal will bring titles such as American Demographics, Folio and Vegetarian Times into the fold.
Mr. Warner was made president of CBS Television Network in 1995, with responsibility for network sales; marketing and promotion; affiliate relations and network distribution; new media; research; and standards and practices.
He spearheaded the network's "Welcome Home" branding campaign.
From 1989 to '95, he was president of CBS Enterprises, in charge of sales, marketing and distribution for CBS-owned content, including entertainment, news and sports programming.
Before joining CBS, Mr. Warner held numerous positions at Home Box Office, including VP-HBO Enterprises; executive director of HBO International; and director of programming at sister Cinemax.