MTVN Reorganizes Its Ad-Sales Team

New York-With Country Music Television and TNN: The National Network added to its roster-and the sudden departure of ad-sales chief John Popkowski-MTV Networks has reorganized its ad-sales team.

Three former senior vice presidents-Tom Cavallaro, Sue Danaher and Doug Rohrer-have been elevated to executive vice president and general sales manager.

MTVN president of worldwide ad sales Harvey Ganot will divide Popkowski's sales responsibilities among that trio. The changes were announced Oct. 27.

The three executives, who joined MTVN in the early 1990s, will report to Ganot.

Cavallaro has become general sales manager for CMT and TNN, formerly The Nashville Network. MTVN added those networks to its sales portfolio after Viacom Inc. acquired CBS Corp.

Related to the reorganization, Peter Weisbard has resigned as senior vice president of ad sales after 17 years with TNN and CMT. Weisbard will continue to help integrate those networks into MTVN through year-end, Ganot said.

Danaher will oversee Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite and TV Land, while Rohrer (who joined MTVN in 1992) will take charge of MTV: Music Television and VH1.

Popowski will leave MTVN at year-end and become an exclusive consultant to the programmer. Ganot called Popowski's nine-year tenure "extremely succesful."

Popowski will be a hard act to follow, added longtime friend Jon Mandel, a co-managing director at Grey Advertising's MediaCom Worldwide media-buying unit.

" 'Pop' is one of the smartest salespeople there is," said Mandel. "Whenever you lose someone like that, it's going to hurt."

Mandel said Popowski's departure didn't take him by surprise, but wouldn't elaborate further. "I can't trade on our personal relationship," he said.

In the announcement, Ganot said Popkowski wanted to spend more time with his family.

"It's not about leaving for another opportunity," Popkowski said last Thursday. "This was a very difficult decision for me. But I have some weighty family issues to deal with," involving his mother and his son.

Popowski's contract with MTVN ends Dec. 31, but MTVN CEO Tom Freston "very generously" offered him the consultant's slot, Popowski said. "The company's been very good to me."

Popowski's innovations while at MTVN included locking Nickelodeon advertisers into two-year commitments, which started in 1995. Last year, he also established a sales team dedicated to pursuing nontraditional ad categories for the kidvid programmer.

That team landed Gateway Inc. last year and PepsiCo Inc.'s Pepsi Cola and Ford Motor Co. (for a safety-themed campaign) earlier this year. All three were eight-figure deals.

The multi-year strategies have allowed Nick to conduct its sales efforts year-round and made it less dependent on the vagaries of the annual kids' upfront, Popowski said.

"We do participate [in the kids' upfront], but it's not an important part of our business [anymore]," he said last May. "Our business goes 52 weeks per year, and it is not relegated to a two-week window."

Mandel, a hard-nosed negotiator in his own right, has been among those who charged that Nick has tried to "stampede" the buyers into moving the kids' upfront to February rather than the more sensible spring time frame.