BCE Inc. may not have control of CTV just yet, but the shift in the executive suite has already begun.
CTVglobemedia Inc. said Wednesday it has chosen a successor for long-time president Ivan Fecan, who is set to retire next year. Kevin Crull will become chief operating officer at the media company on Jan. 1, and will take over as president when the deal is finalized to make CTV a division of Bell parent BCE Inc.
Mr. Crull, 46, has been with Bell Canada for five years and is currently president of its wire line division, which handles Internet and home phone services, as well as satellite TV and Bell Fibe TV. Fibe is the company's new Internet Protocol (IPTV) service, which transmits television channels over broadband.
The move signals a major change for the country's largest private broadcaster. While Mr. Crull oversaw the launch of Fibe, he has little experience on the TV programming side, unlike Mr. Fecan, who had been a programmer, a director and a station manager, among other positions, before becoming a senior television executive.
"There will be kind of, you know, a university curriculum created for Kevin," Mr. Crull said of the learning curve he will face in his new position. "Hopefully it's CTV 201, not 101."
Mr. Crull said that he has been eyeing the job for about a year, ever since it became clear that BCE management was seriously considering increasing its stake in CTV. Last month, the company announced it had reached a $1.3-billion deal to buy 100 per cent of the television assets of CTVglobemedia, of which it currently owns 15 per cent.
"From my position of running the television distribution business for Bell, and looking at the future of TV distribution over satellite and over our Bell Fibe TV, it was critical that we were much tighter to the reasons people buy a TV service and consume TV," he said. "And it's because of the content. They don't buy [a TV service]because of the pipes. They buy it because of the content."
The BCE-CTV transaction still requires approval from the federal broadcast regulator. The company expects it to close in the middle of next year - or possibly earlier, depending on when hearings with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission can be scheduled. Once the deal is closed, Mr. Fecan intends to step down.
"Kevin Crull … is well-regarded in the industry for his deep understanding of both digital and conventional media," Mr. Fecan said in a statement. "… He has built Bell's TV, broadband and online portal businesses into digital media leaders."
Before the deal was announced, there was some speculation that the most likely person to take over from Mr. Fecan was Keith Pelley, who ran the CTV-Rogers consortium that broadcast the Vancouver Olympic Games. But Mr. Pelley jumped ship suddenly in August to become head of Rogers Media.
With the BCE deal in place, it makes sense to have a succession plan, said Jonathan Allen, a telecom analyst with RBC Dominion Securities.
"It's a good chance for Kevin to dip his toes in the water," he said. "One thing that's become clear is [BCE CEO]George Cope likes to have people around that he trusts, and he's built up a strong management team in the last few years … in my view, Kevin's done a great job improving the residential service business at Bell. I think George would like him to bring some of his cost and strategic operating focus to CTV."
Bell announced that its president of wireless services, Wade Oosterman, will replace Mr. Crull as head of the residential services division. Mr. Crull said the two will work closely as they work to make CTV content available across Bell devices.
The marriage of telecom and television is a new reality in the Canadian landscape. In May, Western cable and telecom company Shaw Communications Inc. announced its $2-billion deal to buy the TV assets of CanWest Global Communications Corp. Wireless and cable giant Rogers Communications Inc. already owns the CITY-TV and Omni broadcast networks as well as a handful of specialty channels such as Sportsnet.
At hearings into the Shaw deal last week, a major issue was whether those distribution companies would restrict the content they own to their own mobile devices. CEO Jim Shaw pledged that the company would negotiate with its competitors, and Mr. Crull said BCE's intentions are the same.
"We feel very strongly the commercial landscape has now solved the issue, such that regulators don't need to be involved. The big distributors largely own the big content providers. And none of us can live without the other," Mr. Crull said.
Personal: A Cincinnati native, 46 years old, in process of becoming a Canadian citizen.
Education: Bachelor's degree in marketing from Ohio State University; MBA from University of San Francisco.
1986-1996: Worked at Nestlé SA, where he advanced from an entry-level position delivering products and wiping store shelves to vice-president of beverage sales. Worked for the company in 15 cities across the U.S. and in Switzerland.
1996-2001: Senior vice-president of consumer services group at US West Inc. in Denver.
2001-2004: Senior vice-president of consumer and small business at AT&T Inc. in New Jersey. In 2004, became general manager of wireless division.
2005-present: In Canada with Bell Canada, in charge of Internet, home phone, and satellite TV, as well as some marketing work. Oversaw the recent launch of Bell Fibe TV, a new Internet Protocol service.