[Interview] Head of Digital Ventures & Innovation Aksel van der Wal over Turner
Internationaal mediabedrijf Turner (onder meer CNN en Cartoon Network) heeft met de nieuw opgezette divisie Digital Ventures & Innovation Group een eerste investering gedaan in Copa90, een digitaal videoplatform voor voetbalcontent. We spreken met Aksel van der Wal die de investeringstak van Turner leidt.
You’ve been at Turner since 2014 and are now heading up the recently created Digital Ventures & Innovation Group. Tell us about your time at the media company.
I joined Turner at a time of rapid evolution for the company and have been fortunate with this new role to be charged with bringing further change to how we look at our business development and product innovation remit internationally. Being CFO for EMEA and then International gave me a depth of knowledge about our company, its full portfolio of linear and digital interests, and the different dynamics of the various markets we operate in, which has served as the perfect background for this new role. I’m really excited to be heading up this area of the business at one of the most transformative periods for the media landscape in recent years.
Why was this division created and what will it do?
As our industry undergoes huge evolution, the impact of digital disruption and changing consumer behaviour means it’s more critical than ever to put audience insight right at the heart of our business strategy. This new division will ensure that we assess new opportunities for innovation, development and acquisition through the lens of solid consumer data and through a realigned, more nimble organisational structure.
What does your role entail exactly?
In leading the division I plan to focus on opportunities for innovation, development and acquisition. This will entail assessing investment opportunities as well as launching products ourselves. We’ll be encouraging the team to get out of their comfort zone and promote disruptive thinking, backed up and informed by a clear vision of the consumer insights and needs that will drive our decisions. I’ll be championing the development of new skillsets, and the importance of taking calculated risks along the way as part of the process.
The first investment is in Copa90, a video platform. Can you tell us about the company and Turner’s plans?
Partnering with relevant brands is a core part of our strategy to compete and lead in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape. Copa90 is one of the world's fastest-growing digital video platforms for football content. We are looking forward to working with Copa90 to develop creative ways to engage new audiences, in particular millennials, while also offering innovative new platforms for advertisers.
Why a football platform? Do you have an affinity with the sport?
Turner has several existing sports interests including its Turner Sports division as well as Esporte Interativo, Bleacher Report and eleague, and also sports programming on CNN. The deal with BBM (Bigballs Media, onderdeel van Copa90, red.) strengthens our digital sports presence even further and we see sports in general as a real opportunity to reach new, highly engaged audiences across multiple touchpoints. And of course, being Dutch, I grew up with football!
How does such an investment come about and how is it signed off?
Right from the outset of conversations we felt that our teams shared the same vision and saw the strategic opportunities for both our businesses. The strong affinity in our ambitions smoothed the formalities as we both knew we wanted to make it work. We couldn’t be happier to being partnering with BBM and can’t wait to get started on the various initiatives we have in mind.
What new opportunities does the collaboration with Copa90 offer to advertisers?
The cross platform commercial agreement which the partnership includes paves the way for multiple opportunities for Turner and BBM to leverage their respective distribution and content production expertise and offer advertisers strategic co-branded content production opportunities, the development of third party branded content and sponsorship opportunities, and get close to an extremely engaged and growing audience.
What is the next project you are working on?
We’ve been in existence since January 1 and are delighted to have closed our first transaction just a matter of weeks later. We are already looking at other areas to make a smart investment or product innovation so watch this space.
Any other news you can share with us?
Internationally we have a suite of new digital-first destinations and apps across the broader digital ecosystem and we want to continue to extend our fan engagement around flagship properties such as CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim, so you can expect to see us accelerate our focus on evolving our digital business interests and capabilities even further.