At our paidContent Mobile conference in May, Andrew Stalbow and Peter Vesterbacka paired up to tout the value of a major studio partnering with a popular game developer on the successful Angry Birds Rio. Now Stalbow has shifted from SVP-Mobile for *Fox* Digital to working with Vesterbacka directly as the North American GM for Rovio Entertainment — aka the folks who bring you Angry Birds.
Stalbow, who will continue to be based in Los Angeles, reports to Rovio CEO Mikael Hed as does Vesterbacka, who is Rovio’s Mighty Eagle and has been its ambassador to the U.S.
Much of Stalbow’s mission at Rovio will be similar to his role at Fox: developing partnerships but this time the target is the entertainment industry. Stalbow told me by phone from Helsinki that he’ll also be looking for video animation distribution channels to further Rovio’s plans to grow the franchise beyond games, keying off interest in video shorts on YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) that suggests a potentially valuable audience. (His portfolio doesn’t directly include the Angry Birds movie in development but he expects to work with that team.) He’s also be looking for ways to piggyback on the current success of Angry Birds to develop new revenue streams.
Stalbow explained the move: “They’ve recently bought an animation studio in Finland, and they’ve got some aggressive plans around video. For me, this is just a really exciting opportunity to work with a super-fast growing property. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
While Angry Birds Rio — with more than 65 million downloads and a heavy News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS) marketing campaign — got the most attention, Stalbow led other recent mobile efforts at Fox that stand out including the preload deal to put Avatar on Samsung and the development of app Glee Karaoke.
He insists that this is not a reflection on the direction of mobile at Fox, which has seen more than its share of ups and downs. A Fox spokesperson said: “We wish Andrew the best and look forward to continuing to work with him as part of our incredibly successful partnership with Rovio. We have no announcements to make regarding a replacement at this time, but remain very committed to extending Fox’s leading TV and film content to mobile platforms and will continue to do so in the future.”