Sakin to Oversee Game Show Distribution

Game Show Network has wrapped its affiliate-sales operation under the wing of its ad-sales chief, officials said last week.

Michael Sakin, formerly GSN's senior vice president of advertising, has been promoted to the new post of senior vice president of sales and distribution, adding affiliate sales to his responsibilities.

The sales staff that Sakin oversees — currently at 25 ad-sales employees — will now double in size to 50, with 25 affiliate-sales staffers added in.

Sakin, a veteran of Fox Cable Networks, joined GSN in January of 2002 and essentially built its first in-house ad sales operation from scratch, according to network president Rich Cronin.

"He did a spectacular job," Cronin said. "It [GSN's ad unit] exceeded all its sales goals."

GSN saw 97% growth in ad revenue during the fall 2003 upfront season compared with the prior-year season. During the upfront, the network signed up blue-chip advertisers such as Kellogg, Orbitz, Fruit of the Loom, Walgreens, American Honda Motor Corp., Pizza Hut and J.C. Penney Co. Sakin's team has also secured product-placement deals with companies such as General Motor's Saturn division.

While it's unusual for one executive to manage both affiliate sales and ad sales at a network, it's not unheard of. Cronin noted that Dave Cassaro, E! Entertainment Television's senior executive vice president of sales and distribution, and Dale Hopkins, senior vice president of distribution and sales at G4, have similar dual duties, overseeing both aspects of the network.

But E! does have separate executives in charge of those two sides of the business: Neal Baker is senior vice president of ad sales and Brad Fox is senior vice president of affiliate relations.

Sakin's leadership abilities and his talent for developing sales strategies can be applied to the distribution side of the business, according to Cronin.

At Fox Cable, Sakin was in ad sales and helped build FX from its launch in 1994. He was also involved in the launches of FXM (now called Fox Movie Channel), Fox Sports Net and the National Geographic Channel.

Since Cronin joined GSN in 2002, its distribution has increased to 51 million from 35 million. The network has distribution deals with all the major MSOs, but is angling to get off tiers and expand its basic carriage, Cronin said.

Sakin, who will split his time between New York and Los Angeles, will essentially take over the duties formerly held by Anne Droste, ex-senior vice president of distribution.