Cassaro Has NBCU Cable Focused on Upfront

David Cassaro, new president of cable advertising sales for NBC Universal, took a bow on Broadway before ad buyers last week as Syfy’s upfront presentation served as a wellreceived warm-up to the much talked about musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

Previously head of ad sales for Comcast’s cable networks, Cassaro now oversees what he calls “one of the most valuable [groups] of cable networks in the media community,” providing both broad reach and targeted program environments. Those networks include USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, E!, Style and G4.

Under Cassaro, there has been no consolidation or reorganization as the sales staff focuses on the upcoming upfront market, widely expected to be a strong one.

“Every single one of our networks has its own distinctive brand and value proposition in the marketplace,” Cassaro says. “We have dedicated teams against all of our individual networks and online brands, and we’re going to continue that. It’s important that those teams communicate and coordinate.”

NBCU won’t use its cable clout to strong-arm clients into buying networks they don’t want. “If something makes sense for a client and they would like to buy more than one of our networks, we’re obviously happy to accommodate them,” Cassaro says. “But we’re not forcing anything. That’s not how this works.”

Cassaro will work closely with Marianne Gambelli, his counterpart at the NBC broadcast network. “I’ve known Marianne for more years than I care to admit,” he says. “I’m probably in her office one or two times a week at least, and on the phone numerous times a week with her.”

Like the cable networks, Cassaro says NBC has a separate and distinct value proposition. “If a customer would like to talk to Marianne, they do that. If they want to talk to me, they do that. If they want to talk to the two of us together, we’ll sit down and we’ll have a conversation.”

NBCU’s size does mean it can put together packages that combine several brands, like the Women@ NBCU initiative that gathers female viewers across networks, dayparts and platforms.

“We try to get a sense of what our advertisers’ objectives and needs are, and try and tailor what we have to our advertisers needs because we are a customer-focused company,” he says.

Cassaro is among those who are bullish about this year’s upfront. “We just came off of the worst recession in our lifetime, and I think that we were all pleasantly surprised at the pace at which the marketplace recovered in 2010,” he says.

For nearly two years, the scatter market has been “incredibly strong, and typically a strong scatter marketplace is followed by a strong upfront,” Cassaro says. “It looks like there is healthy demand across the board” category-by-category, and on the supply side, many networks are delivering audience gains and desirable programming, including NBCU’s channels.

“From top to bottom, every single network in our portfolio is increasing the amount of original programming they’re putting on their networks,” Cassaro says. “So we’re succeeding.”

E-mail comments to and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette

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.