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New NBCU Org Chart Gets High Ratings from Media Buyers

More NBCU/Comcast Coverage

Ad buyers expect big things from NBC Universal under Comcast, which last week presented the executive lineup that will manage the media giant.

They are hoping that the new majority owner can provide resources to fix the NBC broadcast network and create new opportunities through technology to reach consumers. They also had good things to say about the executives who will head NBCU's ad sales efforts.

"I think the new entity that they're creating and this leadership team has the potential to unleash the power of this unbelievable spectrum of content creation, aggregation and distribution," said Mike Rosen, president of activation at Starcom USA.

Comcast appears to be putting new but accomplished execs in charge of the once proud Peacock network. "I'm a great believer in the power and the need for broadcast television, so I hope they can create some shows that are engaging and smart and draw an audience," said Andy Donchin, head of broadcast buying for Carat, who noted the successful shows new NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt created while at Showtime.

Comcast might have bought NBCU for its profitable cable channels, but "we still need the reach, the awareness, the engagement of broadcast television," Donchin said.

In his new organizational chart, new NBCU CEO Steve Burke has taken the network and cable ad sales, which had previously reported to a single top sales executive, and separated them, with NBC Network Advertising Sales President Marianne Gambelli reporting to Ted Harbert, the Chairman of NBC Broadcasting, and Dave Cassaro, president, cable advertising sales, reporting to both Bonnie Hammer, chairman of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios and Lauren Zalaznick, chairman, NBC Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media. Neither Hammer or Zalaznick had previously been directly responsible for ad sales.

Mike Pilot, who had been president of sales for NBCU is leaving the company, Burke said.

Both Gambelli, who was already NBC network ad sales president, and Cassaro, who was president of ad sales for Comcast Networks, are well known in the advertising community.

"I think both of them are proven leaders and they're also progressive thinkers too. They've had tremendous records of success over the years in terms of the marketplace and how they've represented their product, but they also understand and embrace the changes that will be necessary to win in the future."

And while the new structure is designed to bring revenue generation closer to the people who run and program the networks, it doesn't preclude deals from being done that involve both broadcast and cable.

"In terms of having a single head of ad sales, I'm not sure if that's a helper or a hurter," said Peter Knobloch, CEO of media buyer RJ Palmer.

Sometimes a single head can make sure that the interests of the whole company come before the individual business units.

But that shouldn't be a problem at NBCU.

"I think it's easy to see how a guy like Cassaro and Gambelli will work well together. They know one another, they've known one another for years. I don't think there will be any issue there," Knobloch said.

Even though the broadcast and cable networks have separate profit and loss statements to worry about, "I think there will be a cooperating effort between the two," said Knobloch. But he added that broadcast and cable negotiations, for the most part were handled separately anyway. "And I will tell you honestly when they're not, clients aren't getting the best of deals."

Comcast has also been aggressive in pushing for advanced advertising solutions. Acquiring a content company like NBCU should remove some of the barriers slowing down the deployment of addressable and interactive advertising.

"I love the promise of that. I think that the potential of media conglomerate 2.0 for marketers will be in the ability to deliver relevant programming and messaging to consumers," said Starcom's Rosen. "We often talk of advances like micro-targeting and addressability as being for the advantage of the advertiser first, but I actually think the consumer will even benefit more because a quality media consumption experience is the ideal combination of both noncommercial and commercial content. I think that's what this combination is bringing to the party."

"I think they're going to be pushing it [advanced advertising] and yes I think they're in the forefront of it and, yes, I think they're going to be able to reap some financial benefits from it," said Knobloch.

"They're going to go through an obvious learning process and an obvious cultural meld process but I think the people that I know that are involved are all great people to work with. I think they're really smart and good executives and from what I can see they get along well with each other," he said. "I think it's going to be a great marriage."