A key figure has switched sides in the $100-million marriage of old and new media between Rogers Communications Inc. and Vice Media, as David Purdy leaves the cable giant for the edgier digital news outlet at the end of the year.
Mr. Purdy's new role is chief international growth officer for Vice, a growing powerhouse in the media world that is taking its first steps into the traditional TV world, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from established networks and venture partners.
His move ends a 15-year stint at Rogers, where he has been a mainstay of its television arm. Most recently, he was senior vice-president of content and played a central role in launching Shomi, the video-streaming service jointly owned by Rogers and Shaw Communications Inc., as a bulwark against the threat from online challengers such as Netflix Inc.
For the time being, Mr. Purdy, 49, isn't straying far: His first assignment will be to steer Vice's partnership with Rogers – which he helped to negotiate. There are still nearly two years left on the three-year joint venture between the cable, wireless and media giant, and the millennial-focused upstart that has moved toward the mainstream. The two companies have built a production studio in Toronto's Liberty Village to feed Vice's first TV channel, called Viceland, which launches in early 2016.
Over time, Mr. Purdy is expected to replicate that partnership model internationally, to extend Vice's reach on all platforms.
"It's like leaving home, but not," he said in an interview.
His roots at Rogers run deep – he was 21 when he met his ex-wife Lisa, who is the daughter of the late company patriarch Ted Rogers and sister of current deputy chairman Edward Rogers. But Mr. Purdy had been looking for his "next challenge or adventure," both within Rogers and outside of it, and built a rapport with Vice Media's co-presidents, Andrew Creighton and James Schwab, while negotiating the Rogers-Vice deal.
When Vice came calling, Mr. Purdy got the "blessing" of Rogers president and chief executive officer Guy Laurence to pursue the new role, making for a smooth exit. Taking over as Rogers' new senior vice-president of content is Melani Griffith, an executive at Penthera Partners, Inc. who also has experience at Discovery, AMC Networks and Fox.
For years, Mr. Purdy grappled with viewers' changing preferences toward watching news and video on-demand – and on whichever device was at hand.
"Dave has been a leader at building and launching linear, digital and mobile products at one of the leading media companies in North America," Mr. Schwab said in a statement.
The joint venture with Vice is intended to fill "a void for Rogers Media," with content tailored to appeal to 18- to 34-year-olds, Rogers Media president Rick Brace said in an interview last month.
But it is increasingly apparent that Vice also needs to tap the resources and reach of traditional media – including old-fashioned TV stations – to continue growing.
"For me, what makes Vice exciting is that they're mobile-first, they're focused on millennials and they're multinational," Mr. Purdy said. "But we also recognize that there's a way we can grow it even faster by getting involved in the traditional television channel lineup and leveraging big telecom in terms of getting broader distribution."
Vice Media is now valued at more than $4-billion (U.S.), with its latest cash infusion coming from Walt Disney Co., which has reportedly invested $400-million. That's in addition to $500-million from A+E Networks and venture capital firm Technology Crossover Ventures.
For Mr. Purdy, Vice also promises a shift in lifestyle from the corporate culture at Rogers.
"I said, 'What's the dress code?' They said, 'Well, make sure you own a few pairs of jeans,'" he said.