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.”

Popular on Variety

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

  • La unidad

    Berlin: European VODs Innovate, Create to Stay Afloat in Global Streaming Wars

    Netflix and other streaming giants might be setting the pace for a global TV landscape upended by video-on-demand technology, but European players are shaking up domestic markets by ramping up investment in original production, forging unlikely partnerships, and looking to beat Netflix at its own game by finding innovative ways to personalize the VOD viewing [...]

  • ABC News Live - David Hatcher

    ABC News Live Taps BuzzFeed's David Hatcher to Oversee Morning News Programming

    ABC News has recruited veteran TV producer David Hatcher as executive producer to oversee the morning news programming block for the ABC News Live streaming network. Hatcher most recently spent a year at BuzzFeed, where he was executive producer of morning news show “AM2DM” on Twitter. For ABC News Live, Hatcher will be responsible for [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Launches Top 10 Daily Rankings of Most Popular Titles by Country

    Netflix is taking top 10 lists of its most popular streaming content to members across the globe. Starting Monday (Feb. 24), Netflix said, it is rolling out a new row in its interface that will show the overall top 10 titles in a subscriber’s country, as well as the top 10 most popular series and [...]

  • Parasite

    'Parasite' Will Stream Exclusively on Hulu in U.S.

    Hulu has exclusive U.S. streaming rights to “Parasite,” the film that made history as the first foreign-language film to win best picture at this year’s Oscars. Under a deal with indie studio Neon, “Parasite” will be available on Hulu beginning Wednesday, April 8, the Disney-controlled streamer announced. The movie from filmmaker Bong Joon Ho won [...]

  • media stocks - wall-street

    Disney, Amazon, ViacomCBS Shares Hit as Stock Market Tumbles Amid Coronavirus Fears

    Fears of the Coronavirus spreading across the world sent major stock indices tumbling on Monday morning. Shares of Disney and Amazon were down 4% for the day as reports that the deadly virus has hit South Korea and Italy spooked investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 1,000 points, or 3.5%, at [...]

  • Disney-Plus-Logo

    Disney Plus Launches Plan Discounts in U.K., Europe Ahead of March Debut

    Disney, looking to lock in Disney Plus customers in the U.K. and European markets prior to its official launch next month, is offering 14%-17% discounts on the streaming service — if users sign up for a one-year plan. Leading up to the March 24 debut of Disney Plus in the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, [...]

  • Alex Dundas - Whistle

    Whistle Hires Ex-ITV Exec Alex Dundas as Head of Unscripted Originals (EXCLUSIVE)

    Digital-media company Whistle recruited Alex Dundas, most recently with ITV Entertainment, as executive VP and head of unscripted premium originals. Based in Whistle’s L.A. office, Dundas will oversee development and packaging of new unscripted shows from Whistle and also will support sales to TV network and streaming partners. He reports to Dominic Ianno, EVP of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content