Twitter has disbanded the live-video business unit responsible for deals with programming partners like Disney/ESPN, MLB and BuzzFeed, moving to consolidate those functions under its content-partnerships team, Variety has learned.
The move is part of a larger reorganization under Kay Madati, Twitter’s global head of content partnerships, to adopt a regional management structure rather than the previous one based on categories like news, sports and live video.
Madati announced the changes in an internal memo Monday, which was obtained by Variety. Under the new structure, the global content partnerships team will be run by execs for five regions — the U.S.; Latin America/Canada; Europe/Middle East/Africa; Japan/Korea; and Asia-Pacific — each reporting directly to Madati, who joined the company last fall from BET.
A Twitter rep confirmed the changes. In a statement, the company positioned the restructuring as a way to streamline its content strategy.
“Over the past year, our global content partnerships team has made significant progress in bringing the best selection of content to Twitter, helping our partners better extend, scale, market, and monetize,” Twitter said in the statement. “To further accelerate this positive momentum, we’re taking steps to streamline this organization to enable increased efficiency around the world and better align with our global strategy and vision.”
In the staff memo, Madati announced Laura Froelich as the new head of U.S. partnerships. A four-year veteran of the company, Froelich previously was global director of sports partnerships. David Grossman, formerly Twitter’s global head of entertainment, is now head of U.S. entertainment, reporting to Froelich.
With the reorg, Peter Greenberger, formerly Twitter’s head of global news, is exiting Twitter.
In addition, Todd Swidler, the former Bloomberg Media exec Twitter hired to lead the live-video group one year ago, also is leaving the company. The lead members of the live-video team (Katie Wells, Nick Sallon and Bo Han) are moving into Twitter’s Content Partnerships group. Meanwhile, Lara Cohen — who rejoined Twitter this past February as global partnerships solutions leader — remains in the same role, reporting to Madati.
As part of the overhaul, Twitter is looking to hire a head of global live program management to oversee a centralized team focused on live-video operations as well as Twitter’s Live Brand Studio for live-streaming branded content campaigns. Twitter also is looking to hire leads for U.S. sports and news, and the company plans to hire new execs to cut live-programming deals in international markets as well, according to Madati’s memo.
The move by Twitter to integrate the standalone live-content group into the regional-focused structure comes after the company announced around 30 new or expanded video pacts at its 2018 Digital Content NewFronts event Monday in New York City.
Those include deals with NBCUniversal, Disney/ESPN, Viacom, Vice Media and Will Packer Media. The partnerships span entertainment, news, lifestyle, music, gaming and sports, including expansions of existing deals with Live Nation Entertainment, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer.
While Twitter says it’s not shifting gears on its video push, insiders say the reorganization reflects disagreement among Twitter’s top leaders on how hard to drive into live premium programming. Ex-COO Anthony Noto, who left the company in January and had hired Swidler in May 2017, was bullish on live video as driving overall user growth and engagement for Twitter. But CEO Jack Dorsey is said to be less enamored with the strategy.
Last month, signaling a pullback in its live-video streaming investments, Twitter shut down video-based apps for Roku, Android TV devices and Microsoft’s Xbox. Twitter is maintaining apps for Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.
At the same time, video has become increasingly important to Twitter’s business. In announcing Q1 2018 results, Twitter said video now accounts for more than half of its ad revenue and was again the fastest-growing ad format in period. In its presentation to Madison Avenue buyers in April, Twitter said video views have nearly doubled in the past year, but it declined to provide specific numbers.
Under the Twitter content partnership group’s new regional structure, Madati also announced managers for the non-U.S. territories: Theo Luke is interim head of EMEA; Christopher Doyle is interim head of LatAm/Canada; and Jennie Sager is interim head of APAC and Japan/Korea (in a role that will eventually be split into two separate positions).