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Ascent Management Changes

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Ascent Media Group has announced a shakeup of its management team as part of a reorganization meant to simplify the structure of the far-flung company and position it to help entertainment companies distribute their product in all formats, including new ones like mobile phones. Ascent will now have two global operating divisions—Creative Services and Network Services. “As part of this restructuring, CEO Ken Williams and chief technology officer Gavin Schutz will be leaving the company,” Ascent announced on August 18. To replace the departing execs, AMG is now being run by a management committee reporting directly to Ascent chairman Bill Fitzgerald. The members of the management committee are Scott Davis, president of network services; Robert Solomon, president creative services; George Platisa, chief financial officer; and William Niles, general counsel. Beyond the effort to rationalize the company’s disparate divisions and improve efficiency, AMG may also be responding to pressure from Wall Street to improve its financial performance. Ascent is a wholly owned unit of Discovery Holdings, which owns the Discovery Channel and other cable networks. The publicly held company was created in July, 2005 when it was spun off to shareholders by John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp., which still has a controlling interest. The firm today is one of the leading providers of digital media management services to studios, independents and television firms around the globe. Headquartered in Santa Monica it has operations in New York, London, Germany and other locations as well as Southern California.Robert Solomon, president of Ascent’s new creative services division, talked to Below the Line’s Jack Egan about the goals of the reorganization.The logic of the restructuring: “It’s a conscious acknowledgement that the entertainment industry is going through a rapid pace of change. We want to make ourselves a little nimbler to help the companies. The world is changing and clients need many versions for different forms of distribution, including the new on-demand platforms.” On the departure of two long-time executives: “When we had five operating divisions we had a corporate layer of oversight to provide some coordination and overreaching strategy across all of the divisions. It was important that we had visionaries like Ken Williams and Gavin Schutz. Kudos to them. I think they’ve done a good job in positioning the company to where we are today. But when they looked at the next phase of evolution of where Ascent was going, they felt it was time to move on to greater challenges.” Ascent’s financial performance: “The reorganization is meant to improve our operational execution both for the near-term and as we embark on our strategic vision for the company. And if we do all of these things, we would hope there are great financial rewards.”Competition: “There are many competitors we will bump up against, but we don’t think anyone has our overall scope and global reach. Technicolor has its own niche. We compete in some markets and not others. Deluxe we compete with on the feature front for digital intermediates, but they don’t provide any services in entertainment television, advertising, and broadcast origination.” Ascent’s file technology: “The idea of the digital file is to ingest once and use many times. Probably the best example is the relationship we have with Sony Pictures. We encoded and currently hold in file-based format thousands of their library titles, and we are literally fulfilling on a weekly basis thousands of deliveries for them. The files give them the ability to hit all kinds of distribution formats, including some of the new on-demand platforms.”Piracy: “Our file system helps on piracy because a client has complete secure control of their library. Sony sits there interacting with and places orders against all of those assets that sit in a secure server area, which we run on their behalf. And then we can fulfill and produce output in our new digital media distribution center located in Burbank which has state-of-the-art security built in. I would challenge anybody to look at that workflow and find a more secure way to repurpose your titles and monetize the content.”

Written by Jack Egan

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