Turner’s new international digital division charged with developing new direct-to-consumer businesses

Aksel van der Wal. Image: Turner

Turner announced a new international business unit that will be headed by the company’s current CFO. And, according to a report of an internal Turner memo on the move, the new unit will be partly tasked with creating new direct relationships with consumers through Turner’s various brands, which range from CNN to Cartoon Network.

Turner announced its new “Digital Ventures and Innovation Division for International” in a release issued yesterday. The company said Aksel van der Wal, who is currently the company’s SVP and International CFO, will lead the division in the new role of “executive vice president, digital ventures and innovation, for Turner’s international operations.”

An article from Digiday, citing an internal Turner memo, noted van der Wal will be tasked with creating closer relationships between Turner’s brands and consumers. The memo, authored by President of Turner International Gerhard Zeiler, also said van der Wal will use data to gain a deeper understanding of Turner’s audiences and target them with products including games, apps or OTT services. Zeiler also said van der Wal will work to bolster Turner’s non-linear ad-sales business.

“Our industry faces massive challenges. Major components are the digital disruption and the changing consumer behavior that comes with new services,” Zeiler wrote in the memo, according to Digiday. “We will adapt to these changes in the most effective way. We will realign our organization similar to how start-ups are built to compete effectively. We will get a deep understanding of our audiences to ensure that consumer insight is at the heart of all the decisions we make about new products and services.”

Indeed, Turner’s official release on the move says as much: “In close co-operation with the Turner International presidents, van der Wal has the responsibility for the existing portfolio of international products and services on the web, for smart phones, games, apps and OTT, and he will also be charged with developing new digital direct-to-consumer businesses, leading a cross-platform business intelligence function that drives consumer insight; managing the internal T&O infrastructure; and helping to implement the strategy of the non-linear ad sales business.”

Digiday noted van der Wal will be responsible for Turner’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America. He will be based in the company’s London offices.

Trey Turner, currently Turner’s SVP of corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, will take over van der Wal’s role as International CFO.

Turner is part of Time Warner, and that company is in the very early stages of a proposed $85 billion takeover by AT&T. That deal though likely won’t close until next year, and only if it receives approval from both U.S. and international regulators. Further, AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner and its Turner unit likely wouldn’t affect van der Wal’s efforts since AT&T executives have said the company will operate Time Warner as a separate, wholly owned subsidiary, and that Time Warner leadership will remain in place if the transaction is consummated.