Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

CTO Cahall Out–As AOL Buys a Video Platform Company for $36.5 Million and Opens NY Tech Center (Press Releases, Memos–Natch!)

While AOL denied a report last week suggesting that CTO Ted Cahall is leaving, he actually is, um, leaving.

Oops!

Sources at AOL said the company thought Cahall (pictured here) was staying when it issued a statement saying he was not leaving. Cahall apparently had other plans.

AOL (AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong wrote a memo to employees this morning about Cahall’s departure and the search for a new CTO:

Ted Cahall took on the role of CTO after I had asked him to move into that position from a broader business role at the company. Ted is the person who drove the complete replacement of our publishing systems and took AOL deeper into open-source technology, among many other accomplishments. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for the work he has done. Ted has decided to move back into the business side of technology and feels it’s the right time to move on from AOL. Ted has been a strong leader at AOL and agreed to transition the company to a new CTO. We are aggressively searching for a new CTO and we believe AOL is a very attractive opportunity for the right candidate.

Perhaps to defocus from the CTO-is-not-leaving-oh-yes-he-is snafu, AOL is also announcing the acquisition of StudioNow, a video creation and distribution platform, as well as the opening of a new tech center in New York, helmed by Jeff Reynar.

Silicon Alley Insider reported last week that AOL had hired the former Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) exec as “head of technology.”

Reynar’s new title is actually Head of Technology for Engineering and Products in New York.

Got it?

AOL said it would pay $36.5 million in cash and stock–with cash paid out over “multiple years”–for the Nashville-based StudioNow, its first official acquisition since spinning off from Time Warner (TWX) last year, for integration with its Seed.com content management system.

Here’s the press release on the StudioNow deal, as well as the one about Jeff Reynar below it:

AOL ACQUIRES PREMIER ONLINE VIDEO PLATFORM STUDIONOW INC.

Transaction Will Allow AOL to Integrate StudioNow’s Video Creation and Distribution Platform into Seed.com

StudioNow Will Continue to Develop Existing Business

New York, NY, January 25, 2010–AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) today announced that it has acquired StudioNow Inc., the premier online platform for quality video creation and distribution. The acquisition will allow AOL to integrate a fully functional video creation platform into its newly-launched content management system, Seed.com. StudioNow will also continue to develop its existing business as a provider of online video creation, management, storage and syndication services to commercial companies.

The acquisition of StudioNow closed on January 22 and was valued at $36.5 million in cash and stock with a portion of the cash paid out over multiple years.

“The successful combination of a talented team, innovative technology, seasoned/professional video creators and strong client service has rapidly established StudioNow as a leader in online video creation and syndication. Those strengths bring AOL significant strategic benefits and we’re delighted that StudioNow is joining the AOL family,” said Tim Armstrong, AOL CEO and Chairman. “Premium original video creation is a fundamental part of AOL’s strategy to offer consumers world-class, stimulating content at scale and the integration of StudioNow into Seed.com will enable us to increase our video content/offerings significantly.”

Founded in January 2007 with headquarters in Nashville, TN, StudioNow partners with blue chip, mid-sized and local companies to create, store, and manage content and syndicate it to online video channels and portals. The company connects clients with its more than 3,000 freelance filmmakers, editors, animators, voice talent and writers/producers to create quality, professional video at an affordable price. In 2009, StudioNow was selected for inclusion on the AlwaysOn Global 250 Top Private Companies List, which honors private, emerging technology companies which create new business opportunities in high-growth markets.

“StudioNow and AOL share a passionate commitment to high-quality content, services and technology and that makes us a natural fit for this new partnership,” said StudioNow’s co-founder and CEO David Mason. “This new chapter for StudioNow presents a tremendous opportunity for our growing professional creative network to reach new audiences, diversify their assignments and increase their income as the number of projects coming from the numerous AOL properties will create a surge in video assignments.”

AOL’s newly launched content management system, Seed.com assigns, buys and distributes work for all of AOL’s properties in order to meet consumer demand for relevant content in areas including entertainment, news and sports, lifestyle, technology, money and finance, among others. Seed.com allows talented professional contributors to be seen, heard and read on AOL’s more than 80 premium branded and niche content sites. Seed.com will harness StudioNow’s technology platform and national network of more than 3000 creative professionals to develop and produce quality, professional video at the request of AOL editors in a way that is rapid, efficient and scalable.

AOL also expects to leverage StudioNow’s technology and resources to complement the ongoing work of its in-house studios, both for AOL productions, which creates original video programming like AOL Sessions, Unscripted, Moviefone Minute and the Engadget Show, and for its branded advertising and content partners.

“The distributed production capabilities offered by StudioNow, combined with our in-house production studio and video resources, help position AOL to capitalize even more fully on the projected growth of video as it establishes itself as a key form of brand advertising in the digital space,” said Armstrong.

eMarketer projects that U.S. online video advertising spending will increase from $734 million in 2008 to $5.2 billion by 2014. This growth will far outpace any other online format, with a compounded annual growth rate of approximately 39% between 2008 and 2014.[1]

AOL NAMES JEFF REYNAR
TO LEAD NEW TECHNOLOGY CENTER IN NEW YORK

New York, NY, January 25, 2010–AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) today announced that Jeff Reynar has joined the company as Head of Technology for Engineering and Products in New York. In this new role, Reynar will build out and manage AOL’s New York Technology Center and will focus on innovation for AOL’s content business and lead AOL’s engineering efforts in New York.

Reynar, 40, is the co-founder of DBT Labs, a company that built a social search service, where he was chief technology officer. Prior to DBT Labs, Reynar spent four-and-a-half years at Google, first as a product manager and then as an engineering manager. He was responsible for co-founding and leading an internal startup team focused on new approaches to search including Google Squared, an experimental search tool that gathers facts from the Web and presents them in an organized collection, and Google Blog Search, among other innovations. Reynar also led the Search UI team in New York that was responsible for much of the search results page on google.com. He previously spent nearly five years at Microsoft where he was a lead program manager on the Authoring Services team that was responsible for Word.

“Jeff is a hands-on technology leader who is experienced in software engineering, people and product management as well as applied research. AOL was founded on a belief that behind great consumer experiences is great engineering, and Jeff is precisely the type of all-star we need to identify, recruit and foster talent as we build out our New York Technology Center,” said AOL CEO and Chairman, Tim Armstrong.

“This is an incredible opportunity to build a team in New York that will work on products that reach tens of millions of consumers,” said Reynar. “AOL’s strategy–content, advertising and communications–presents enormous opportunities. I’m excited by the prospect of finding engineers here and bringing new, young engineering talent to New York City to develop products that will make a tangible difference to consumers. New York is the media capital of the world and bringing more engineering into the content business will make the Internet even more useful than it is today.”

As AOL focuses on building world-class platforms for the Web, the company is expanding its engineering talent with the announcement of the New York Technology Center. The company is also launching a search for a new global Chief Technology Officer. Ted Cahall, the company’s current CTO, has decided to move on from AOL and will be transitioning the company to a new CTO. Currently the company has engineering and product development hubs in Dulles, Virginia; Mountain View and San Francisco, California; Bangalore, India; Dublin, Ireland, and Tel Aviv, Israel as well as a few additional remote locations in other parts of the U.S. and is aggressively expanding engineering at these centers.

“We want to be known as a place where world-class engineering drives world-class results for our company and the consumers and partners we serve,” said Armstrong. “That’s why we are expanding our technology organization and making it easier for us to maximize geographically-centered teams focused on specific products and hire world-class engineering resources in multiple locations across the globe. The result will be a global technology organization focused on innovation and execution on a global scale.”

Reynar is a graduate of the University of Delaware, and received his Ph.D. in Computer and Information Science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Separately today, AOL announced an acquisition focused on accelerating the company’s investment in content technology and platforms. The acquisition of StudioNow Inc., the premier online platform for quality video creation and distribution, will allow AOL to integrate a fully functional video creation platform into its newly-launched content management system, Seed.com.


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”