Q&A: Comcast Spotlight's Charlie Thurston

Competitors can often make for strange bedfellows. But when it comes to ad sales, cable and satellite have found profitable ways to work together. Earlier this month, Comcast Spotlight struck a deal with Dish Network to sell the satellite operator's local advertising inventory on 10 regional sports-network feeds in seven U.S. markets. The deal follows a similar one between NCC and DirecTV agreed to last year. Comcast markets involved in the Dish deal include Boston, Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta and Houston. NCC will manage multiple-market buys for national advertisers. The new venture with Dish is "an extension of our philosophy of bringing convenience and ease to the ad community. At the time of the announcement, Comcast Spotlight president Charlie Thurston said the deal is "an extension of our philosophy of bringing convenience and ease to the ad community. From national spot advertisers to local zone clients, being able to reach their market base through one media source, including research and electronic billing data, is the smart choice." Thurston delved a little further with Local Ad Sales editor K.C. Neel. An edited transcript follows:

Q: What's the advantage of Spotlight selling ads for Dish Network?
A: This agreement, coupled with the NCC's August agreement with DirecTV, is a logical and natural extension of our core mission: making it easier for advertisers to buy spot cable, whether one DMA or multiple. NCC reached an agreement with DirecTV for the same 10 markets in August. That agreement also included Time Warner Cable and Cox to insert on those RSNs as well. The two satellite companies have more than 31 million customers, and about half of those are in our markets. That's a huge audience we could potentially represent down the road with our own existing customers to deliver market by market.

Q: Were advertisers asking for this kind of opportunity?
A: Absolutely. This is taking the interconnect strategy to its next efficient step in terms of one-stop-shopping. If you're looking to reach sports fans, the RSNs with the hometown teams are where you want to be, and whether they're watching cable or satellite, you want one point of contact to reach them -- that's what we're now able to do.

Q: How will your local AEs sell those spots? Will there be specific AEs selling Dish spots? Will there be bundles (cable/satellite) clients can take advantage of?
A: It's still a bit early to get into very detailed operational processes, but our AEs will be selling spots on Dish and DirecTV much the same way as they would for an interconnect where we represent another cable provider. We're not going to be focused on selling just one group of customers-we're going to be selling the ability to reach the widest possible audience across the DMA.

Q: What are the goals and expectations for this partnership?
A: Right now we're focused on getting up and running with the 10 RSNs in the seven markets, but our long-range expectation is that this could expand to more markets and more networks. The opportunity is amazing when you think about how this offers advertisers both better targeting and more convenience.