Media companies are certainly contributing to the deluge of layoffs hitting nearly every sector of the economy these days. But as they race to reshape business models, reengineer portfolios or simply rejuvenate operations, TV industry players are continuing to hire even as they fire-and that means there are some high-profile openings.
The cable industry’s advanced ad platform Canoe Ventures, for instance, has been on a hiring spree to meet some tight deadlines and continues to hire. The company already has 25 staff. Paul Singer, Canoe Ventures Senior-VP operations said: “Canoe Ventures is growing and actively seeking experienced candidates to join the team. We are impressed with the quality of the people we’ve met so far.”
The new Oprah network, OWN, has also been staffing up from a new CEO, Christina Norman, to a variety of advertising, business and legal functions. Independent arts channel Ovation owned by Hubbard Media Group and a group of investors including The Weinstein Company, Corporate Partners II, Perry Capital and Arcadia Investments Partners-have also been on a search for a newly created top sales position. (The network now says they’ve filled the slot but are weeks away from announcing it.)
Weather Channel Interactive, based in Atlanta, Georgia, and part owned by NBC Universal, is also out seeking a CEO. Former Discovery Networks president Billy Campbell was thought to be in the frame for the post, but the channel is reportedly talking to Bill Bolster, a former CNBC chief. Former Oxygen president, Lisa Gersh, continues to act as interim chief.
Meanwhile, the local stations’ industry association, TVB has formed a search committee to find someone to replace president Chris Rohrs who is leaving. Spokesman Gary Belis said that it’s still early days since Rohrs doesn’t officially leave until the end of 2009 but that the search committee would likely take a much wider look at executives from other fields.
Michael Levine, founder of ML Search, a media industry recruiter, said: “It is a challenging time. What’s interesting is there are still positions out there and there are announcements made every week.” (See B&C’s Fates & Fortunes for the latest on who’s coming and who’s going.)
Levine says out of work executives these days have to be more entrepreneurial. “It’s a bit of a different way of working.” He suggests people think hard about ways to brand themselves and to stand-out from the crowd. “Young kids get it, they incorporate branding into their being…You have to exercise a different muscle.”
With more qualified people chasing fewer jobs, one would think companies would have an easier time of filling spots. Levine says that isn’t always the case, “We get searches all the time and I think they’re going to be filled in a minute, but it is about finding the right person. It’s still a challenge and its about finding that special chemistry.”
Of course, there are also certain openings that aren’t exactly openings. The biggest example of this is the hole left by the departure of Peter Chernin from News Corp. While the recent restructuring would seem to have filled the void for now, one News Corp. exec said last week, “Everyone is waiting for another shoe to drop.” While some company insiders say Peter Rice may be getting groomed for that role one day, another exec said, “We are just waiting for the memo that James Murdoch is coming over to the U.S.”