The appointment, which has yet to be announced, comes at a critical time for AOL as it attempts to distinguish itself from a sea of rival online content providers and distributors.
What attracted AOL to Burbank was his familiarly with multi-platform content distribution, and his ability to strike deals with top content producers, according to one source close to the appointment.
"It's all about compelling content delivered through super distribution channels," the source said. "Burbank knows how this business is supposed to work."
Burbank--who worked on the Cingular brand before it was rechristened AT&T--oversaw a marketing budget of $185 million, and was involved in a number of experimental marketing programs, including the sponsorship of an online battle of the bands on YouTube. In another instance, Cingular original mini-episodes of the popular HBO series "Entourage" were available only to Cingular Video subscribers.
AOL has been hunting for new leadership at least since November when Time Warner replaced Jonathan Miller with Randy Falco as head of its online unit.
The search intensified last December when three key executives left the company: Jim Bankoff, who spearheaded a number of high-profile initiatives including the launch of celebrity gossip site TMZ.com and the free broadcast of Live 8; Joe Redling, president of AOL mobile and chairman and chief executive of AOL International; and John Buckley, executive vice president for corporate communications.
Amid this turbulence, AOL has been on an upswing. Earlier this month, it helped Time Warner post better-than-expected earnings for the first quarter of the year. AOL's ad sales soared 40% year-over-year, thanks largely to its move from a walled-off subscription service to a free, ad-supported Web portal.
AOL's overall revenue fell 25% due to waning subscriptions, but that didn't keep its adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization--a key measure of profitability--from rising 27%.