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.
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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.