Viacom is in the midst of reorganizing its ad-sales efforts, the latest in a line of big media companies trying to figure out how to work with Madison Avenue as digital technology wreaks massive change on the way advertisers sell soda, soap and SUVs.
The company, which owns Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central, has for years had its kids’ networks and its general-entertainment cable outlets make separate pitches to sponsors. Now, under a new plan, a single executive will oversee outreach to advertisers from every network except BET, according to a person familiar with the situation. The executive is Jeff Lucas, who has for years led efforts to sell everything from MTV to Spike – nearly all the networks related to entertainment.
Lucas did not respond to an email seeking comment. Jim Perry, who has been with Viacom since 1991 and has led Nickelodeon’s ad sales for more than a decade, is mulling a new job within the company, according to the person familiar with the situation. A Nickelodeon spokesman declined to comment.
The new structure for the company’s advertising comes after other big media outlets like Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Time Warner’s Turner and 21st Century Fox have made similar efforts. With audiences splintered across a dizzying number of new ways to watch video content, advertisers need to thread their way among traditional TV programming, new digital behaviors and multiple media outlets to capture a mass of potential customers. Having to deal with different sales groups under a single corporate umbrella can pose more of a challenge than many ad buyers might like.
“This has been a long time coming” at Viacom, said one media-buying executive. “It certainly is welcome news for us to have one decision maker on their side.”
NBCUniversal has a single executive, Linda Yaccarino, overseeing ad sales for the company’s entire suite of properties, with different executives overseeing outlets organized by audience interest: live programming, general-entertainment fare, niche programming and digital. Time Warner’s Turner, which once had different executives overseeing general entertainment, news and digital, in 2014 named Donna Speciale to supervise them all. 21st Century Fox’s Fox Networks Group recently put one executive, Toby Byrne, over the sale of its combined broadcast and general-entertainment cable portfolio.
News of Lucas’ new position was reported previously by The Wall Street Journal.
The new structure comes as Viacom is reorganizing the entire company amid ratings declines at many of its networks and a desire to accommodate shifts in how consumers use its content.
In recent weeks, a handful of senior executives at Viacom, including veteran programmer Van Toffler and TV Land head Larry Jones, have unveiled plans to leave the company. Meantime, Viacom has reorganized the structure of its TV networks, combining three separate units into two – CMT and TV Land are now part of the unit that comprises the Nickelodeon suite of networks, while Comedy Central and Spike have been joined with MTV and VH1.