So what's going on at Deutsche Telekom (DT)? To adapt Lady Bracknell's famous line from Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest, "To lose one senior executive may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose three smacks of serious trouble." By Martyn Warwick.
Gerry O'Sullivan, the personable Vice President of Global TV and Entertainment at DT is suddenly leaving the company for the usual "personal and family" reasons - and as is also usual those personal and family reasons are no more than a corporate smokescreen to obfuscate the reality that Mr. O'Sullivan has been hobbled in his job and has had enough.
According to the DT spin doctors, Gerry O'Sullivan "has asked to leave" but that is, quite literally, just a story. He was promised major funding to carry through DT's strategy to grow its TV interests and business. However, the cash to permit this was to have come from the sale of T Mobile US and we know what a can of worms that was. The net result was that three months after Gerry O'Sullivan moved over from BSkyB, where he was responsible for the introduction of the immensely popular Sky+ HD and pioneering efforts in 3D TV, that promised money was blocked and frustrations inevitably resulted.
O'Sullivan's departure is important. He headed a team of more than 500 people and for two years was responsible for managing the development of TV and entertainment propositions in ten countries across Europe - including Germany. This involved the launch of a number of hybrid IPTV/ satellite pay TV platforms and multi-device offerings to what is now approaching five million subscribers.
He was also responsible for the company's OTT media business including video, games, Epublishing and music (where he brokered a landmark partnership deal with Spotify for music streaming services in Germany).
Gerry O'Sullivan has agreed to stay on pro-tem with DT to help the company whilst his replacement is sought and put into place. However, he is the third of DT's top brass to move on in recent months. Ed Kozel, a former senior Yahoo executive left earlier in the year and DT's CEO René Oberman will step down in 2013. Losing talent of this calibre is indicative of real malaise within the upper reaches of DT.
Mr. O'Sullivan has been an outspoken and determined evangelist for the transmutation of telcos into media operators and has stated publicly, and on many occasions, that failure to understand content has been a key factor in preventing telcos from becoming more successful in a rapidly changing world.
In a keynote address at the last IP&TV World Forum, O’Sullivan admitted that telcos struggle in their relationships with content owners when negotiating rights for their IPTV platforms. “We’d need a whole team of lawyers,” he said. “The people we deal with are very protective of their content. We find the whole world quite challenging.”
Mr. O'Sullivan believes that a cloud-based model is, at present and with current technologies, the only way to deliver TV and video content to multiple devices and that telcos are the best placed of all organisations to exploit and benefit from the cloud. He said, “I think it’s going to be the telcos, the experts in cloud provision, so they will have an advantage in delivering services from the cloud." It remains to be seen if his successor will have the same breadth of vision and depth of passion. And, if he has, whether or not he will get the resources to see vision through to reality. After all, you can't make bricks without straw.
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