×

Fox TV Ad-Sales Veteran Toby Byrne Joins Zefr as President

Toby Byrne, who spent two decades at Fox TV in ad sales, has been named president of Zefr, which provides YouTube ad-targeting technology solutions.

In the new role, Byrne will head Zefr’s marketing and sales organizations. He’s also tasked with forging relationships with ad-agency holding companies and major brands as well as leading the company’s expansion into Europe. He will work with co-CEOs Rich Raddon and Zach James to steer the company’s strategic direction.

In addition to Byrne’s hiring, Zefr announced that EVP and head of global sales Brian Atwood will be promoted to chief sales officer, reporting to Byrne.

Prior to joining Zefr, Byrne most recently was president of ad sales for Fox Networks Group, before resigning unexpectedly in September 2016. At FNG, he oversaw national ad sales and revenue-generating strategies for domestic entertainment and sports TV businesses, including Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports, FX Networks, National Geographic Channels and their digital extensions.

“For the majority of the content I’d been selling for my career — premium entertainment and sports — there’s been significant fragmentation,” Byrne said. “When you look at where the opportunities are going forward, part of what made this attractive was the tech capabilities of Zefr, in their ability to curate packages. They are essentially creating a premium-content experience on YouTube.”

Byrne had served as an adviser for six months prior to his being recruited as president (his official start date as a Zefr employee was Sept. 5).

“It was the try-before-you-buy model,” joked co-CEO James. “We weren’t sure we’d be able to attract someone of his level. Toby has been talking to brands for some time – when we go in with our offering to big brands, he’s someone they have trusted for years. He’s able to say, ‘This is the offering I was losing out to in TV.'”

Byrne first joined Fox in 1996, rising through the ranks to be named president of ad sales for Fox Broadcasting in 2010 and president of ad sales of Fox Networks Group in 2014. Byrne began his career as a media buyer at Omnicom Group’s BBDO in 1993.

Zefr’s BrandID contextual-advertising system analyzes millions of YouTube videos to determine the nature of the content, and the company also offers rights-management tools for the platform. Zefr has benefited from the brand-safety concerns that reared up earlier this year at YouTube — after advertisers discovered their spots in some cases were running with objectionable content, including white-supremacist and terrorism videos.

But according to James, “Brand safety was child’s play. The biggest opportunity is contextual advertising… We’re not just blacklisting videos that aren’t safe. We know every single video and the context for them.”

Byrne’s main job will be explaining that story and selling the system to Madison Avenue. He’s based in New York City, but said he will “be out west quite a bit.”

Zefr, based in Venice, Calif., is backed by investors including IVP, U.S. Venture Partners, MK Capital, Shasta Ventures, First Round Capital and Richmond Park Partners.

More Digital

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    U.S. Consumers to Spend $26 Billion on Music, Video Subscriptions This Year

    U.S. consumers are expected to spend a combined $26 billion on music and video subscription services this year, according to new estimates from the Consumer Technology Association. That’s up from $20.4 billion in 2018, and nearly twice the amount spent on such services in 2017. Propelled by the continued success of Apple Music and Spotify, [...]

  • New AirTV Mini improves cord-cutting experience

    Dish’s AirTV Releases New Android TV Streaming Stick

    Dish’s AirTV subsidiary is releasing a new streaming device designed to combine over-the-air broadcast TV with the company’s Sling TV service and other streaming services. The new AirTV Mini streaming stick looks similar to a Fire TV stick, and is powered by Google’s Android TV software. The AirTV Mini stick is 4K-capable, allowing consumers to [...]

  • BMI Promotes David Levin to Senior

    BMI Promotes David Levin to Senior VP of Digital Licensing

    BMI today announced that David Levin has been promoted to Senior Vice President of Licensing, effective immediately. In his newly expanded role, Levin is responsible for all of BMI’s domestic licensing and revenue generation, encompassing radio, television, digital media, cable, satellite and general licensing.  Levin, who will oversee teams in New York and Nashville, reports [...]

  • James Murdoch

    James Murdoch Invests $20 Million in The Void, a Location-Based VR Startup

    James Murdoch, former CEO of 21st Century Fox, has invested $20 million in The Void, a startup specializing in location-based virtual reality (VR) experiences, Variety has confirmed. The funding comes through Murdoch’s Lupa Systems, a holding company that Rupert Murdoch’s younger son established with $1 billion in proceeds from the sale of his stake in 21CF [...]

  • Norah O'Donnell's 'CBS Evening News' Isn't

    Norah O'Donnell's 'CBS Evening News' Isn't Just For TV Viewers

    Norah O’Donnell will make her “CBS Evening News” debut, of course, on TV. But that doesn’t mean CBS News isn’t mindful of the new ways in which news aficionados get their information in an era of smartphone alerts and viral tweets. When O’Donnell launches a new era at the venerable newscast this week, complete with [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content