Soon after the surprise announcement that RTL Group CEO Gerhard Zeiler would be leaving Europe's largest broadcaster, Turner Broadcasting System named the executive as president of its international unit.
Zeiler will report to Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of TBS, Inc. and head up a 3,800-person division in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
Currently, Turner Broadcasting operates more than 130 channels in more than 30 languages in some 200 countries around the world.
Zeiler succeeds Louise Sams, who since 2003 has served as president of Turner Broadcasting System International and as Turner's general counsel, a company spokesman said. Turner chairman and CEO Phil Kent decided last fall that Turner's international business required full-time executive focus and he asked Sams to remain with the company in her original role as general counsel, which she has, Turner said.
Zeiler is expected to assume his new role with Turner first of May.
As president of Turner Broadcasting System International, Zeiler will oversee all the company's entertainment and kids networks outside of North America as well as the distribution and commercial operations of CNN's international services. Other responsibilities include the company's international joint ventures and its licensing and merchandising activity.
Profiled in Multichannel News a year ago as a Tartikoff Award winner, Zeiler has been CEO of RTL Group since March of 2003, and he was a member of the executive board of Bertelsmann AG.
"We are delighted that Gerhard is joining us and look forward to the leadership, perspective and wealth of international television experience he will bring to one of the most successful and most strategically important areas of our company," said Kent in a statement. "His programming success; entrepreneurial experience within a big company; ability to run multiple lines of business; deep understanding of the digital landscape and opportunity; relationships across the media landscape; and passion for the television business combine in a great international partner for me, an exciting leader for the division and a strong addition to our executive committee and the company overall. We all look forward to working with him to extend our core brands, target and develop new markets and build scale around the world."
During Zeiler's tenure at RTL, the company expanded its international television footprint across Western Europe and into Croatia and expanded its holdings to 41 channels and 34 radio stations in 10 countries, making it Europe's largest broadcast.
Zeiler was also responsible for shepherding RTL Group through the financial collapse of 2008 and 2009, keeping the company profitable even though broadcast TV advertising plummeted.
Early in his TV career, Zeiler was the secretary general of Austria's public broadcaster, ORF, before becoming CEO of Tele 5 and then RTL II in Germany. After a stint heading ORF as its director general, he was named CEO of RTL, Germany's biggest TV channel, in 1998.
"As a longtime observer of Turner's networks, I am keenly aware of their strength with consumers and the company's profile in the international business community," Zeiler noted in a statement. "This move is an opportunity to help grow some of the most valuable media brands in the world and develop new businesses alongside people I admire, like Phil and colleagues across Time Warner I have known and worked with over the years. This is an exciting time for our industry and for Turner Broadcasting, and I believe in our ability to lead and succeed."