What message does it send when you hire the country’s top new media manager to run a start-up business in an increasingly lean and competitive industry? What are you saying when you tap the Executive Board of the nation’s state broadcaster (and one of the most important media owners in the world) for your joint venture’s new MD? What does paying half a million pounds per year (my guess: his BBC salary is 350K) to the top man at your fledgling IP TV business say about your priorities?
Is it a statement of ambition and substance? An aggressive line in the sand for competitors and partners? A gesture of confidence in the business model and the medium?
Or is it a defeated acknowledgement of the status quo? Are you really saying “don’t worry everyone, we’ve had a good look at this IP TV thing and it’s going to be just like telly”. Does it scream “we haven’t got a name, a business model or an audience yet and already our HR costs are totally out-of-control”?
Frankly I’m worried. I’m worried that rushing out and securing the services of the best new media executive in the land is not the confident prelude to a smooth launch and rapid ascent to profitability and fame but rather the last thing you do before people start adding the prefix “troubled” to the things they say about you—as in “Kanagaroo, troubled web TV joint venture, today announced the appointment of Ashley Highfield…”
I think this role was really the perfect opportunity to ‘skip a generation’ and reach out to the dozens of smart managers one or two layers below Highfield at the Beeb and in the commercial sector. I think that opportunity has been missed because Kangaroo is already a disaster waiting to happen: an almost unmanageable Euro-pudding of a joint venture with no visible path to profitability and a business plan that’s in free-fall. Hiring the industry’s top man (and, thanks to iPlayer’s triumphant launch, its streaming TV talisman) looked like a large enough and decisive enough gesture to silence the doubters. Fat chance.
Or am I just being negative?