Longtime Corus Entertainment chief executive John Cassaday to retire in March

TORONTO – Corus Entertainment Inc.’s (TSX:CJR.B) longtime president and CEO, John Cassaday, is stepping down as head of the media company this spring.

Chief operating officer Doug Murphy will assume the top position when Cassaday exits on March 30.

The change, announced ahead of the company’s first-quarter earnings results on Tuesday, comes at the end of Cassaday’s existing contract, which was signed five years ago, he said in an interview Monday.

Corus has faced hesitation from large TV advertisers to spend money in recent quarters, a challenge that has affected many traditional media organizations.

“We think that when we start to see some sustained economic growth — and we’re hoping to see that in the latter half (of the year) — we’re going to see stronger ad sales on the television side,” Cassaday said.

Meanwhile, Cassaday, 61 said his departure leaves him “wanting to do something completely different after an extraordinary career in broadcasting,” though he did not offer any additional details.

Cassaday has been the CEO of Corus for 15 years and previously served as president of CTV Television Network in the early 1990s.

He was working in the executive ranks of the Campbell Soup Co. when CTV first offered him a job.

“They were looking for someone who understood the importance of building relationships with customers and the value of brands,” Cassaday said.

During his time at Corus, the CEO has been a proponent of strong branding and negotiated licensing contacts with some of the most prominent cable brands in North America, including Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network and OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

The Toronto-based company has also become a well-known creator of international children’s content, producing franchises like Beyblade, which had both a TV series and a popular line of toys.

Murphy steps into the CEO position after spending 12 years at Corus where he has overseen the television operations and various other divisions. Previously he worked at the Walt Disney Co. where he was responsible for a plan to grow its theme parks and resorts around the world.

Corus owns a slate of radio stations, as well as TV channels like YTV and ABC Spark. It also operates pay TV services like Movie Central and HBO Canada in Western Canada, while Bell Media (TSX:BCE) operates HBO Canada in the east.

The success of reality shows like “Property Brothers” has encouraged Corus to move ahead with bigger investments in its own TV series. Last November, the company outlined plans to produce more original series that it can show on its cable channels before selling them to streaming video services.

“These days the value of a hit show has never been greater,” Murphy said.

“By owning content you can monetize it on multiple platforms as they evolve and proliferate in the marketplace.”

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