This article originally appeared on the Turner blog.
Gerhard Zeiler, President of Turner International has been with Turner since 2012.
Late last year, Gerhard launched an international Digital Ventures and Innovation division. With their first big investment recently announced, we wanted to take this opportunity to speak with him, to find out how the new venture is going and to get his vision for how Turner can continue to grow outside of North America.
How has the launch of the new Digital Ventures and Innovation been received?
Gerhard Zeiler: The industry is changing and we change with it. Technology, data and innovation are how we create deep engagement with our fans. By creating this new division, we deal with these changes. We realigned our organization in a similar way to how start-ups are built. This will help us to gain an even deeper understanding of our fans. Aksel van der Wal is in charge of focussing this new division to driving profitable growth through international consumer-centric initiatives. The creation of the new division attracted coverage in key markets across the world, and the new roles we advertised for it received some exceptional applications. We were delighted to fill these posts from existing talent within the company. Things are off to a great start, too: we have already closed our first business transaction…
…We were just about to ask you about Bigballs Media.
Gerhard Zeiler: This is the first investment by our Digital Ventures and Innovations group. The equity investment in and commercial agreement with UK-based digital media sports company BBM will strengthen Turner’s digital sports presence. This is the company behind one of the world's fastest growing digital video platform for football content, Copa90. The deal is the result of a close collaborative internal effort between Turner International, Turner EMEA, Turner Sports and Bleacher Report.
How do you build internal culture with an employee base as diverse as the global portfolio of Turner International?
Gerhard Zeiler: We at Turner have so much in common. Throughout the more than 200 countries we serve, we share the same passion for TV, and we all are aiming for the consumer centric, data driven, next generation media company John Martin defined. We are a very diverse group of people and this diversity is a core strength as well. Based on the culture survey conducted last year, we know that there is a strong connectivity amongst us all and we build on this by fostering further information sharing, coordination and partnering.
A couple of personal questions: What is the most challenging thing about your role? What do you enjoy the most?
Gerhard Zeiler: Travelling through the various time zones can be quite challenging at times. But travel brings me together with the international colleagues and I love learning more and more about various cultures each and every day, interacting with Turner people across the world.
You travel a lot. How are you still effective while travelling?
Gerhard Zeiler: In fact, I pretty much relax while travelling as I can do what I love: watch television! While on planes, that’s one of the few moments when I can watch new programmes. My team loads the latest programmes on my laptop and where necessary, subtitles them. I am passionate about TV programmes.