Speciale Joining Turner Execs Leaving AT&T

Donna Speciale, head of advertising sales for WarnerMedia, is leaving, joining the ranks of senior Time Warner executives who have left the company since it was acquired by AT&T.

Speciale had been head of ad sales at Turner, but Turner largely no longer exists and its management has largely been dismantled.

She had been working with AT&T’s advertising unit, Xandr, on ways to use AT&T’s consumer data to better target commercials and increase their value.

Related: Zeiler Named Interim Head in AT&T Ad Sales Shakeup

The former Turner businesses, along with HBO and Warner Bros., are now part of WarnerMedia, run by AT&T phone company executive John Stankey.

Turner’s CEO John Martin and president David Levy left earlier, along with HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Warner Bros. head Kevin Tsujihara.

After Levy left, Gerhard Zeiler, who had been in charge of Turner International, was given responsibility for oversight of WarnerMedia’s affiliate and ad sales operations.

Related: AT&T Picks HBO Max as Streaming Service Name

It was not clear which members of Speciale’s sales team will remain at WarnerMedia. Sources indicated that their salaries were much higher than the sales people at AT&T’s DirecTV unit. Some indicated that a top executive from Xandr Media, which sells ads for DirecTV, might get a senior role at WarnerMedia. 

The reorganization of WarnerMedia was largely driven by AT&T strategy to create a streaming service to compete with Netflix.

On Tuesday, AT&T announced that the streaming service, to be launched in Spring 2020, would be called HBO Max and would have programming from HBO, the Turner cable networks including CNN and Cartoon Network, Warner Bros., as well as some of AT&T’s digital programmers.

The new streaming service will not be ad supported.

Speciale joined Turner as president of sales for its entertainment and young adult networks. She was promoted to oversee ad sales for all of Turner in 2014.

Turner recently completed its upfront ad sales for the 2019-20 broadcast year, registering double-digit price increases in what has been a strong market.

Speciale, who had been head of media agency Mediavest before joining Turner, was one of the leaders in the TV’s move to use data to make commercials more effective and efficient.

As part of that effort she led Turner as it, along with Viacom and Fox, formed OpenAP, a consortium aimed at standardizing audience targets, making buying them easier for agencies and advertisers.

Earlier this year, AT&T pulled out of OpenAP, choosing to focus its advanced advertising efforts with Xandr.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.