By Sahil Patel
What’s Trending, the company behind the live online talk show of the same name, has hired James Haffner to be its first chief operating officer.
In the role, Haffner essentially becomes What’s Trending co-founder and face Shira Lazar’s number two, and fills a role vacated by Damon Berger, who’s leaving What’s Trending after helping launch the business in 2011 and serving as its CEO since then. Haffner’s responsibilities will include working Lazar to grow What’s Trending’s profile in four key areas: editorial content and media partnerships; original content development and branded entertainment; co-productions; and international expansion.
With Berger out at What’s Trending, he’s rumored to be heading to Fullscreen, one of the biggest multi-channel networks on YouTube, according to industry sources.
What’s Trending currently reaches 165,000 subscribers on YouTube, and also distributes to partners such as Dailymotion, Yahoo Screen, and The Huffington Post. Overall, the show averages 20 million views per month across its network.
What’s Trending also has a long-standing ad partnership with Samsung, hosting various lounges and live activations for the company during major trade-shows and conferences. The company also has development and production deals with companies like Marriott Content Studio and Indian video network Culture Machine.
Haffner comes to What’s Trending from Discovery Digital Networks, where he served as executive producer of DeFranco Creative, the digital business centering on YouTube star Phil DeFranco. While there, Haffner, who was overseeing business strategy and content development, was involved in the successful launches of the SourceFed YouTube channel (which came during YouTube’s first $100 million foray into original programming), as well as the For Human Peoples merchandising business (which he Haffner says brings Discovery $1.2 million in annual merchandising revenue).