Laura Molen, a senior ad-sales executive at NBCUniversal who was often viewed as a potential successor to the company’s chairman of advertising and partnerships, Linda Yaccarino, will leave the company early next year.
“These past few years have been full of enormous changes for all of us, both personally and professionally,” said Molen, a president in NBCU’s ad-sales division, in a statement to staffers. “While I love NBCUniversal and this team, it is time for me to re-prioritize my focus, have more family time and fully explore my numerous passions. I’m particularly interested in utilizing my expertise to partner with others and help companies succeed, including taking on more Board advisory roles, like so many leaders I admire.”
NBCUniversal has been seeking buyouts from a group of older executives, but the decision to leave is Molen’s, according to a person familiar with the matter. She is expected to stay with NBCUniversal through the first quarter of 2023.
Her departure is likely to spur a restructuring of NBCU’s current ad-sales operations. During her tenure, Molen had oversight of ad sales for the company’s cable and Spanish-language networks, as well as the company’s Peacock streaming service. But NBCUniversal has over the past few years worked to integrates sales of all its inventory, a reflection of how advertisers are working to purchase ad inventory not according to the venue or platform, but according to the type of audience most likely to see it.
Mark Marshall and Krishan Bhatia, two other division presidents who oversee national and sports ad sales and business operations, respectively, are likely to inherit some of Molen’s responsibilities, according to the person familiar with the matter
Molen’s departure is the latest in a series of exits by senior sales personnel who have longstanding relationships with advertisers and media buyers. Jo Ann Ross, the president of U.S. ad sales at Paramount Global, stepped away from the role earlier this year and is now working in a consulting capacity for the company. Rob Tuck, the veteran ad sales chief for the CW network, earlier this month retired from the network after it was purchased by Nexstar Media. Karen Grinthal, a longtime sales executive who had long overseen sales for Warner Bros. Discovery’s Food Network, decided to leave that company earlier this year.
The exodus is taking place as the media business is consolidating. Traditional media conglomerates often find themselves hard-pressed to compete with big streamers like Netflix and Amazon, and the move to streaming has made ad sales more reliant on consumer-targeting algorithms and data-distillation tools and less on the content itself.
Molen joined NBCUniversal in 2013 after logging stints at Univision and the former Viacom. In recent years, she has placed a lot of emphasis on leading advertisers to Peacock, which only runs a handful of commercial minutes per hour, and offers new commercial formats that aren’t often found on traditional TV. Among the concepts she spearheaded was a “council” of marketers who struck early deals to sponsor Peacock in exchange for getting early access to new ad concepts. The advertisers, Molen told Variety in 2021, were eager to “surprise and delight” streaming fans while they binge. “They helped us come up with another way to give consumers more content with less advertising,” she said at the time.