×

AT&T, Chernin Group Name 2 Execs to Run Over-the-Top Video Venture

Virasb Vahidi tapped as CEO of Otter Media; ex-YouTube VP of content Tom Pickett to lead niche VOD business

Otter Media, the online-video joint venture of AT&T and The Chernin Group, named former American Airlines and AT&T exec Virasb Vahidi as CEO and also appointed ex-YouTube VP of content Tom Pickett to lead its targeted-channels business.

Formed in April 2014 by TCG and AT&T, Otter Media has a pool of $500 million to acquire, invest in and launch OTT video services. The venture’s two existing businesses are: the new targeted VOD company led by Pickett; and Fullscreen, the YouTube multichannel network headed by founder and CEO George Strompolos, in which Otter Media acquired a majority stake.

Vahidi (pictured above, left), previously American Airlines’ chief commercial officer and a senior strategy exec at AT&T, will lead Otter’s general operations and overall strategy. Pickett has been named CEO of a yet-to-be-named company that will focus on building advertising and subscription-based niche video-on-demand channels, and includes Otter’s existing stakes in Crunchyroll and Creativebug.

SEE ALSO: AT&T, Chernin Group Acquire Control of Fullscreen

The two new execs’ “consumer-focused experience and superior leadership abilities are the perfect qualities to help steer our efforts, grow our existing businesses and expand the Otter portfolio,” Chernin Group president Jesse Jacobs said.

At American Airlines, Vahidi expanded the reach of its global network and broadened partnerships, as well as led the modernization of the airline’s fleet. Previously, he spent four years at AT&T, beginning in 2002, as SVP of corporate strategy and planning.

Pickett had worked for Google since 2004. Most recently, he was VP of YouTube Content, where he was responsible for the development and growth of YouTube Content Partnerships and scaling content operations across the globe. Prior to Google, he was an engagement manager at Booz Allen Hamilton and a former F/A-18 fighter pilot and “Topgun” graduate of the U.S. Navy.

“Virasb’s expertise in navigating industries that are going through transformation, along with his outstanding managerial skills, will greatly benefit our portfolio and partners,” Jacobs said. “And Tom’s proven track record at YouTube and his insights and working knowledge of the evolving video-on-demand space will be instrumental as we further explore opportunities to expand our relationship with content partners and consumers.”

Under Pickett, Otter Media plans to launch, invest in and/or acquire additional niche-programming channels. Today, the business comprises three channels: Crunchyroll, focusing on Japanese anime; KDrama, a streaming service for Korean content; and Creativebug, a how-to site for arts and crafts enthusiasts.

Otter Media’s board of directors includes Peter Chernin and Jesse Jacobs of Chernin Group, John Stankey and David Christopher of AT&T, and Virasb Vahidi.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • AT&T TV

    AT&T TV: An Unskinny Streaming Bundle That Looks a Lot Like Traditional Pay TV

    AT&T this week launched AT&T TV, a new subscription streaming television service that uses an Android-based internet set-top, in 10 markets. But the way it’s priced and packaged looks very similar to cable and satellite TV services — in other words, AT&T TV isn’t targeted at the cord-cutter crowd. It’s basically designed as a way [...]

  • Sofia Wylie arrives at Variety's Power

    Disney Channel Enlists Duplass Brothers for YouTube Hip-Hop Dance Series Starring Sofia Wylie

    Disney Channel’s first original scripted series made exclusively for release on YouTube is “Shook,” a hip-hop dance short-form series starring Sofia Wylie, produced by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass. “Shook” will debut Saturday, Sept. 28, on Disney Channel’s YouTube channel. The scripted single-camera show centers on 15-year-old Mia (Wylie), who yearns to dance professionally but [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Is Getting Rid of Messaging Feature

    YouTube is killing off a feature that allowed users to share videos and other messages with each other. YouTube Messages, which was first introduced in January of 2017, will be turned off by September 18, the company announced this week. “We’re constantly reevaluating our priorities and have decided to discontinue YouTube’s native direct messaging feature [...]

  • Yara Shahidi

    Audible Teams Up With Big Names as Audio-Only Storytelling Expands

    Hobnobbing with the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Kate McKinnon and Yara Shahidi isn’t typically the gloss applied to the cerebral audiobook set, but Audible is putting the humble audio story through its own movie-makeover montage, inking high-profile development deals with entertainment names like “The Walking Dead” comics creator Skybound Entertainment, Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Lorne [...]

  • Geneva Wasserman

    Condé Nast Taps Film Veteran Geneva Wasserman as SVP of Motion Pictures

    Condé Nast Entertainment hired Geneva Wasserman as senior vice president of motion pictures, overseeing development of the media company’s slate of feature film properties. Wasserman, a nearly 20-year veteran of the entertainment industry, most recently served as co-founder and executive producer of production firm Project Z Entertainment. She takes over the role at CNE after [...]

  • A view of the SK Telecom

    Korean Regulators Approve Four-Way Streaming Merger

    South Korean regulators have approved the merger of the video services of three local broadcasters and SK Telecom’s streaming app Oksusu. The new service, operating under the name Wavve will launch in September and be Korea’s largest. Proposed in January as a measure to combat the incursion of international video players, the deal was given [...]

  • siriusxm on playstation

    SiriusXM Announces $4 Streaming Plan for Students

    SiriusXM took another step towards taking its subscription service past the car Tuesday: The company announced a new student subscription tier that gives eligible college students access to music and talk radio stations on their mobile and connected devices for $4 per month. Some of the content available for this price includes SiriusXM’s more than [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content