NBCUniversal Sets Radical Overhaul of Advertising Sales Operations

New structure aims to sell inventory across demographic, thematic lines rather than network by network

Linda Yaccarino

In an unorthodox restructuring of NBCUniversal’s advertising sales operations, the Peacock is clustering sales efforts for its broadcast and cable networks along demographic and thematic lines rather than the traditional network-centric approach.

The overhaul means that NBCUniversal reps will no longer call on sponsors simply to sell ad inventory on a single network, but try to encourage purchases of discrete groups of viewers, whether they be mass audiences or crowds tuning in for specific kinds of lifestyle shows.

NBCU said it would put one executive, Dan Lovinger, over sales of its biggest ratings generators: NBC, entertainment-cablers USA and Syfy and WWE programs. Another executive, Laura Molen, will oversee ad sales for themed cablers including Bravo, Oxygen, Esquire, E!, Cloo and Chiller. Seth Winter, head of NBC Sports ad sales, will add oversight of ad sales for NBC News as part of an effort to sell live programming. Scott Schiller a digital-ad sales executive will expand his role to supervise sales of advertising related to digital video.

“In a world of growing fragmentation and as scale has become more and more elusive, we’ve clustered our networks to capitalize on the strength of our assets,” said Linda Yaccarino, president of NBCU ad sales (pictured).

The company also set Alison Tarrant to oversee sales of sponsorships and advertising integrations across all of its networks and properties. The job is an eyebrow-raising one for NBCU, which typically relegated such stuff to execs at individual properties, meaning that different sales personnel from individual networks often did individual projects, but did not often consider company-wide ideas. John Shea, a veteran ad executive who had been orchestrating ideas for sponsors that played out across the company’s units, will continue as Chief Marketing Officer.

NBCU is borrowing a page of sorts from Disney’s ESPN. which has for several years organized its ad teams around types of sponsors, rather than around different types of media – think print, TV, and the like – to sell. The theory is that advertisers have come to the realization that their commercials must work together across a broad swath of media types, particularly as audiences migrate to social-media outlets and digital video.

Under Yaccarino, NBCU has stepped up its efforts to sell a broader array of advertising to clients – not just a broadcast schedule or a seasonal appearance on a cable network. The move has added more complexity to NBCU’s ad negotiations, but appears to have had at least one positive effect: In this year’s upfront, the NBC broadcast network was the only one to secure an increased volume of ad commitment from sponsors among English-language broadcasters. Among rivals, Fox and ABC saw ad volume fall while CBS and CW stayed flat with 2012 levels.