ABC scores in NFL war

Fried's new ad sales post leaves ESPN a step behind

It appears that ABC Sports has gotten the nod in its turf battle with sister network ESPN about who gets to sell ads for the company’s glamorous NFL packages.

Larry Fried, executive vice president, marketing, and general sales manager for ABC, has been named the executive in charge of NFL ad sales for both ABC Sports and ESPN, according to sources familiar with the situation. An ABC representative said the network had no comment.

Beginning this season, all NFL sales for ABC and ESPN must be run through Fried. While advertisers will still, in many cases, call on the sales reps from ABC and ESPN they’ve used in the past, all sales requests will be funneled up through Fried.

Sports media buyers have been buzzing about the internal Disney competition for weeks. While it makes sense for one sales entity to sell both “Monday Night Football” and ESPN’s Sunday-night pro football games, if ESPN’s sales staff was given the responsibility it would be a major blow to both ABC’s sales staff and ABC Sports.

“There’s been a war raging between ESPN and ABC over who sells the NFL,” said a major media buyer. “Marvin (Goldsmith, president of ad sales for ABC) doesn’t want to lose his clout. If ESPN gets it, what does his sports sales department do? If ESPN gets tied in with ‘Monday Night Football,’ they’ll be the tail on the dog.”

“If ABC or ESPN takes over, it throws the other division off kilter,” added another media buyer.

The expansion of Fried’s duties would appear to be a victory for ABC. Fried, who reports directly to Goldsmith, has worked for ABC since 1978, when he joined the network as an account executive. He was promoted to his current position in January 1996.

Last year, “Monday Night Football” and ESPN’s football packages were sold separately. That was necessary because another network, TNT, also had a cable package of NFL games and ESPN needed a separate cable sales staff to sell against Turner.

Beginning this season, ESPN has the entire NFL cable package, so a separate cable sales force was not imperative, said media buyers.

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