Bolen, blogtv axed at AAC

Post-takeover shuffling sends VP of content, together with execs Heather Conway, Errol Da Ré and Jackie Saad, to the exit. Social network blogtv.ca going dark after just six months

Change is afoot at Alliance Atlantis, with word that senior executive Norm Bolen will be pinkslipped and the short-lived experiment blogtv.ca is ‘winding down.’

Bolen, VP of content for Alliance Atlantis Communications, confirms that the new owners at CanWest Global Communications have told him that once the trustee status of the company finishes, he’s moving on. That could be as early as January, depending on the CRTC.

‘At the end of the trust I will be leaving,’ says Bolen. ‘They told me, which I took to be a great courtesy. I appreciate knowing.’

AAC also says public affairs topper Heather Conway is exiting at the end of September, and that sales and HR executives Errol Da Ré and Jackie Saad are gone with Bolen.

In addition, CanWest is shutting down blogtv.ca, AAC’s foray into online social networking launched just six months ago. One full-time employee and an undisclosed number of contract and temporary employees running the site will be axed. ‘This decision is based on business realities,’ says AAC spokesperson Jennifer Bell.

A memo to staff from Barbara Williams, CanWest MediaWorks SVP programming and production, notes that, ‘When the site first launched back in March, initial traffic surged, but then declined and over the past quarter we’ve seen a steady decline, indicating that high usage is not likely. Moreover, the site has not produced the sales interest we expected, and as such we felt that winding the site down was the most fiscally responsible option.’

Alliance Atlantis was purchased by CanWest Global and Goldman Sachs for $2.3 billion in a deal that closed in mid-August. Until the broadcast portion of the deal is examined and either greenlit or nixed by the CRTC, that part of the business is being held in trust.

The CRTC has a hearing scheduled to examine the deal on Nov. 16. Taking its turnaround time for the purchase of CHUM by CTVglobemedia as an example, a decision on AAC could come as early as mid-January.

The company’s digital media division, which includes blogtv.ca and has a staff of about 75, does not fall under the CRTC’s jurisdiction and is already controlled by CanWest.

‘The assets need to continue to operate,’ says trustee Jim Macdonald, noting that it’s his job to protect CanWest’s investment by seeing to it that business at AAC’s channels continues as usual, and to protect AAC by making sure there is no day-to-day influence by CanWest.

Although he declined to comment on CanWest’s plans to let go of specific employees, Macdonald says, ‘What I think normally happens in this process is that wherever possible, the purchaser tries to communicate to various people as much as they possibly can about their future intentions, in order to deal with people as early and as forthrightly as possible. Those conversations may or may not have taken place. It’s got nothing to do with the trust.’

Bolen, who plans to take some time off, says there are no hard feelings. ‘I wish them all the best. I’m trying to do everything I can to help the transition work smoothly,’ he says. He adds that in his time at AAC he’s ‘accomplished almost all of my professional goals, and the business is running on all cylinders.’