Disney Mulls Ad Sales Overhaul for ABC, Freeform, Disney Channels (EXCLUSIVE)

Grey's Anatomy Meredith dating
Courtesy of ABC

Disney is considering a revamp of how it sells some of its most popular outlets to Madison Avenue.

Under one plan being discussed, the company would place a single executive in charge of advertising sales for ABC, Freeform and the various Disney entertainment cable networks, according to three people with knowledge of the situation. If the idea is put into practice, Disney would set up a structure that mirrors that of rivals such as NBCUniversal, Time Warner’s Turner or  21st Century Fox, all of which have placed the majority of their media brands under the oversight of a single executive. Fox’s Fox Networks Group did so just about a year ago, and is now looking for another executive to take the reins.

Disney ABC Television Group, the unit that houses all those networks, declined to make executives available for comment. Disney’s ESPN is not believed to be part of the restructuring plans, these people said.

The potential overhaul would take place as more advertisers insist upon being able to buy ads across a company’s various media properties, rather than having to negotiate separate deals for each of the various broadcast, cable, and digital outlets under a media conglomerate’s umbrella. The rise of mobile devices and streaming video has splintered the traditional TV audience, forcing Madison Avenue to spread its dollars around more outlets to gain the same number of impressions it might once have snared in decades past with a more traditional TV buy. Most of the nation’s big media companies have spent the last several years trying to make the trick of buying inventory across multiple outlets much easier, by eliminating some of the territorial push-and-pull that occurs when different people oversee advertising outreach for various media holdings.

If the plan is put into effect, the executive who might get the job would be responsible for luring advertisers to everything from traditional commercials for ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” to integrations tied to Disney Channel’s “K.C. Undercover,” not to mention digital support for streaming episodes of Freeform’s “Shadowhunters.” And that person’s role could also serve as a means of prodding Madison Avenue to buy bigger packages of inventory across the Disney entertainment holdings.

One person likely to be considered for the role is Rita Ferro, according to these people, an ad-sales executive who has been with The Walt Disney Company since 2003. Ferro was given oversight of sales for the company’s various Disney cable networks – Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD – in 2010, along with Radio Disney and  a passel of digital, mobile and social operations that cater to kids and families. She started with the company in 1993 selling ads for some of its international holdings.

In recent years, Ferro has worked to hook ad clients on new concepts, such as Disney Co-Op, which creates content and ad messages for social and digital media outlets ranging from Instagram to Twitter. The added inventory helps the company, as Disney Channel and Disney Junior typically focus on sponsorships that tie an advertiser more closely to Disney’s various properties, and run fewer traditional commercials during programs.

The potential revamp would come after Geri Wang, who has led ad sales for ABC since 2009, recently announced she intended to retire in March. Her departure would take place just a few weeks before the TV’s annual “upfront” market, during which TV companies try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory, kicks off. Whatever Disney’s ad-sales plan is, chances are the company will want to unveil  any new structure – and new titles – well before those discussions begin in May.

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  1. Suzanne says:

    Would this plan include ABC O&O TV stations?

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