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Fox Networks Reshapes Ad Sales Strategy, Names Bruce Lefkowitz to Key Role

Bruce Lefkowitz, a veteran of the battles to make big cable networks as desirable as broadcast outlets to Madison Avenue, will vie to get Madison Avenue to buy more commercials across the many TV holdings of 21st Century Fox.

Lefkowitz has been named exec VP of advertising sales at Fox Networks Group, and will serve as the No. 2 to Toby Byrne, the onetime head of ad sales at Fox Broadcasting and Fox Sports who was tapped in October to lead a new effort to induce advertisers to consider the company’s broader video portfolio. Together, Byrne (above, pictured), who is president of ad sales for Fox Networks Group, and Lefkowitz will supervise the sale of ad inventory for everything ranging from Fox to FX to Fox Sports 1 (Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network are not under their purview).

“A few months ago, we were siloed,” said Byrne, in an interview. “Now, senior ad-sales execs “will be responsible for the full suite of our assets across all platforms.”

Lefkowitz will supervise a team of six senior vice presidents who will work directly with one of Madison Avenue’s major media buying firms. One executive will be devoted to WPP’s GroupM; another will handle all business with Omnicom Group-owned firms; another will supervise business having to do with Interpublic Group. Other executives will work directly with Starcom MediaVest Group; ZenithOptimeida; and Dentus and independent buying agencies.

Lefkowitz becomes a more integral part of 21st Century Fox’s ad-sales effort as some of its veterans have departed. Jean Rossi, who helped supervise Fox Broadcasting as well as cross-sales efforts for the company for years –- she was instrumental in setting up the structures that put Coca-Cola, AT&T and Ford Motor in “American Idol” -– left last year. Lou LaTorre, who has run Fox’s cable ad sales for years, has chosen to retire from the company but will serve as a consultant for the next several months. As part of its restructuring, Fox Networks eliminated several dozen ad-sales jobs late last year and earlier this year through buyouts and layoffs.

21st Century Fox reshapes its ad-sales outreach after other media conglomerates have done the same. Time Warner’s Turner once had CNN under one executive, TNT and TBS under another, and digital under someone else. Now all its assets, except those related to sports, report to a single executive, Donna Speciale, once a prominent media buyer. Under ad-sales chief Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal has also reworked its advertising process, and now has senior executives who focus on content types — broad entertainment programming, niche entertainment programming, live content and digital content.

Both Byrne and Lefkowitz said they see a new world where advertisers want more data and analytics and creative ideas that connect with specific types of content and specific kinds of audience viewing behaviors rather than just age-and-gender demographics.

“We are moving further into the future, where we are selling the breadth of our portfolio to our agencies and clients, where we will have further data and analytics to prove our value,” said Byrne, espousing his view that “premium content is very much still the most effective place to build brands and drive sales, as opposed to some of the other, more recent options, where there are issues of viewability and fraud.”

Prior to taking on this new job, Lefkowitz had been exec VP of ad sales for Fox Cable Entertainment. He joined Fox in 2002, after stints at Discovery Communications and Turner, among other places.

He has experience getting advertisers to think beyond traditional measures. In 2008, he played a role in getting General Motors’ Cadillac to sponsor the second season of “Damages” on FX, even as the large automaker was pulling back from a lot of its TV advertising. Cadillac was able to place some of its cars in the series and sponsor a commercial-free episode. In some ways, his new job carries some of the same duties: getting advertisers to select Fox Networks programming and entice passionate fans, even if the viewership isn’t always the biggest in TV.”

“In the earliest days of FX, before we developed our tremendous original content, we were really just a GRP play, and we were able to position it as a brand and a place for innovative thinking,” he said. “We have to be able to process the information that we receive from our customers and package them into ideas.”

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