Robert D. Weisbord

Changing consumer habits and increased competition for people’s attention from streaming media and the big tech giants have made it increasingly important for TV companies to find new ways to use technology to boost revenue. Not only must they build up their digital operations, they also have to find ways to effectively sell these new platforms so they aren’t exchanging big bucks from traditional TV for digital dimes.

That imperative goes a long way toward explaining Rob Weisbord’s successful career and his inclusion in the 2018 class of Technology Leadership Award winners.

Evidence of Weisbord’s willingness to embrace new things came right after college in 1985, when he managed to land a job at a Spanish-language radio station, WQBN in Tampa, Fla. “Starting as an Anglo selling Spanish AM was totally out of my comfort zone, but it was some of the best training I’ve had,” he said.

Success there led him to running the radio station, work at television station WTVT in Tampa and then Sinclair, which he joined in 1997 as director of sales in its Las Vegas properties.

A year later, after being named a regional group manager, Weisbord began using his longtime interest in new technologies to help expand Sinclair’s sales operations. “I was always the early adopter with the blinking blue light in my earphone that the traditional sales guys made fun of,” he said with a laugh. “I began studying what was going on in Europe and Asia with mobile devices and I got the stations involved in mobile marketing.”

That dovetailed well with then Sinclair chairman David Smith’s longstanding interest in mobile broadcasting and a push by the company’s top technologist and former B&C Technology Leaders Award winner Del Parks to expand digital operations.

“Del was very vocal in the boardrooms about the importance of digital and pushed for me to run the group,” Weisbord said. “When I took over digital it was basically just myself and four people and now it’s morphed into a 140 person product team with digital producers.”

The growing importance of those operations and Weisbord’s success in building up the digital businesses led last year to a new, more senior post as the company’s chief revenue officer.

In addition to growing its digital operations, Weisbord noted that Sinclair has been very active in promoting the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard, which will allow TV stations to behave much more like a new media company with mobile broadcasting, advanced targeted advertising, personalized content delivery, big data analytics and interactive video.

“We will soon be launching addressable ads that will allow us to get ready for ATSC 3.0 and the one to one marketing it will provide,” he said.

But Weisbord also highlights its importance of traditional media and the need to build sales teams that meld both traditional linear TV spot sales and digital TV. Getting linear TV sales forces to buy into digital media was crucial to his company’s successes in boosting digital media revenue, Weisbord said.

“I believe that digital can teach linear and linear can teach digital,” he said, adding that both media strengthen each other. “They give us a rich tool chest that can help our clients grow their business.”