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The Guy Who Built AOL's Video Business Is Leaving

AOL didn't use to have a video business. Now it does.

Steven Rosenbaum | @Waywire
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Four years ago AOL didn’t have much of a video business. Now it does. And the guy who’s responsible for much of that growth is headed out the door.

AOL’s top video executive Ran Harnevo, who joined the company in 2010, is leaving. He’ll be replaced by Viacom’s Dermot McCormack, who was most recently running digital properties for the cable programmer’s brands, including MTV.

Executive departures at AOL aren’t uncommon, but Harnevo’s is worth noting because he was a key part of the company’s recent success in video. When he joined in 2010, AOL’s video revenue was in the “tens of millions”; two years later it had topped $100 million. Now an AOL spokesman says it is in the “multiple hundreds of millions” — it’s reasonable to assume that means at least $300 million.

While AOL is trying to generate attention with splashy original shows like “Making a Scene with James Franco,” the bulk of its video revenue comes from a distribution strategy, built on pushing its clips — and other people’s clips — around the Web. That’s what Harnevo’s 5Min Media specialized in when AOL bought it in 2010, which led to AOL’s first video growth spurt.

And last year Harnevo helped AOL land Adap.TV, a video ad marketplace. That deal doesn’t get much attention in the press, but the $405 million acquisition was the biggest in CEO Tim Armstrong’s tenure, and it has given its video business another significant boost. AOL says it now generates four billion videos a month, from 70 million visitors.

Harnevo’s departure shouldn’t be a surprise; he has come close to leaving at least twice before, and most recently signed a contract extension a year ago. Next up, he says via Twitter: “being an entrepreneur, inventing shit.”

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