Carney Adds Research to Advertising Sales Duties

Sony Pictures Television is giving its head of advertising sales, Amy Carney, responsibility for its worldwide research group.

Carney becomes president, advertiser sales, strategy and research, and will have influence over additional aspects of the company.

Advertising sales and research have always worked together closely, Carney says. "I feel like that marriage between research and ad sales has just gotten deeper and deeper and deeper," she adds. "And now with this new job, the opportunity to dive into programming and distribution in that way is very exciting to me."

Carney, who joined Sony Pictures Television in 2003, started her career in research as a junior analyst at Telerep. "So when people ask me if I have a background in research, I can honestly say I do," she says.

But the research she did then isn't the same as the research she will oversee now. "When I was in research, research was more about spin to help people sell things," she says, referring to that type of work as "faux research."

Now, "research and ad sales have evolved so much over the years, and it has become real research," she says. "We do real, true brand studies, really trying to figure out the ROI for our customers; real measures of engagement, really past just what the rating is, and trying to bring real results to advertisers."

For example, Sony's research team is working on the upcoming syndicated Queen Latifah show, and research will play a role in constructing how the show is going to look and how tightly advertisers will be woven into the program.

"Right now we're doing a lot of primary research and focus groups, and looking at the daytime landscape and what the audience wants," Carney says. "We can also use some of the brand effectiveness studies that we did with The Dr. Oz Show on the impact that integrations had to inform how we want brands to be involved."

The TV business has also changed, with a rising tide of online and on-demand viewing. But unless research can catch up, ad dollars won't follow.

"You can bring programming onto different platforms and find different audiences that way, but research, the measurement of that, hasn't always been able to keep up, and it challenges the business model," Carney says. "We've always had this great three-legged stool: You've got programming, you've got consumers, you've got advertisers, and that balance works great. But as you're seeking out brave new worlds without figuring out the right type of measurement hand-in-hand with that, you kick out one of the legs of that stool. It becomes an uncomfortable seat."

Among the executives Carney will be relying on in her expanded role are James Petretti, senior VP, U.S. sales and marketing research, and Robin Lake, VP, international programming research. "We've got a cast of very talented people," Carney says.

"The beauty of this department is, it's one of the few global research departments," Carney says. "I started my day at 6:30 a.m. on a conference call where we had all the research people from the channels around the world talking about the different studies that they were doing. This one was studying the brand messaging, another channel was doing a consumer study about what people are looking to watch and what programs are resonating in that area of the world. And they all came together on the call to share those learnings and see if there was an opportunity to leverage what the other ones were doing. It was fascinating. It was very collaborative. I don't know anywhere else where that is being done."

Carney says she wants the research group to step up to the next level. "We're very good about taking the rating, looking at what happened and trying to make decisions about tomorrow," she says. "What I'd like to do is bring the group into a new level of strategy, to be able to look at yesterday and look at tomorrow at the same time."

While much of the TV world is looking at the DVR as a key technology, Carney sees the DVR as a short-term issue. "I think you've got the older generation that has now been able to adopt the DVR and use that to time-shift their viewing," she says. "But the younger audience, they want more video on demand. When the technology allows for dynamic ad insertion and the measurement of the audience of that VOD at the time of viewing, I think that could make the DVR, one day, obsolete."

But the DVR is likely to be a factor in upcoming upfronts. "When you've got a significant amount of viewing that may happen in the live-plus-seven [time period], I think you're going to have a lot of people pushing to be able to monetize their entire audience," she says.

Top media company executives have been talking up C7, which would count commercial exposures delayed by seven days, up from the current three days, and Carney says some advertisers might buy in.

"If you've got a specific need to have your ads seen on a specific day -- you're opening a movie, for instance, or you're a retailer, and it's a time-sensitive ad -- then C7 isn't going to work for you," she says. "If you're selling paper towels or laundry detergent, then C7 will probably work for you.  And I think it will be reflected in efficiencies."

On the ad market, Carney says the fourth quarter was kind of quiet. "We didn't have a lot of scatter activity then," she adds. "But our first-quarter options were very low-much, much lower than last year -- and we're already starting to see some for [the] first quarter, which is early."

As for the upfront, she says, "I'm always optimistic about the upfront."

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Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.