Skip to main content

Top Cable Sales Executives Jockey for Position in Upfront

Donna Speciale, Turner; Jon Steinlauf, Discovery Inc.; Sean MOran, Viacom; 

Donna Speciale, Turner; Jon Steinlauf, Discovery Inc.; Sean MOran, Viacom; 

With the concentration of the TV business, and the consolidation of advertising sales teams at those companies, a handful of top sales executives now control more than $22 billion in commercial inventory in the cable business.

Most of that inventory will be negotiated and sold over the next few months in the upfront market, determining the financial fates of those companies or the coming year.

Here is a Multichannel News scorecard of the executives responsible for selling cable advertising and what kind of hand they’ll be bringing to market for next season.

Donna Speciale

Title: President, Turner Ad Sales
Company: Turner
2017 Ad Revenue: $4.033 billion**
Outlook: A top media buyer before joining Turner, Speciale has been on a quest to make the television experience better for viewers and Turner’s portfolio of networks more attractive to media buyers. Turner has been among the early movers by cutting commercial clutter at truTV, creating audience-targeting products and building up branded content production studios. She sees her competitors moving in her direction and ad dollars flowing as a result.

Jon Steinlauf

Title: Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer
Company: Discovery Inc.
2017 Ad Revenue: $3.809 billion**
Outlook: Steinlauf, who had been in charge of ad sales at Scripps Networks Interactive, became head of sales for Discovery when the latter company acquired Scripps. The two companies both feature nonfiction programming that is viewed live; as a single company, it will continue to emphasize that advertising works on strongly branded networks because much of it is contextually related to the content, and because fans are receptive to the messages they see in their favorite trusted shows. Discovery’s respected head of sales, Ben Price, will leave after the upfronts.

Sean Moran

Title: Head of Marketing and Partner Solutions
Company: Viacom
2017 Ad Revenue: $3.699 billion**
Outlook: Under Sean Moran, Viacom is looking to build a variety of marketing services that go beyond selling spots. Viacom acquired WhoSay, a social-media influencer marketing company, and VidCon, a place where content creators convene. It has also put together a shopper marketing unit. Viacom expects its Advanced Marketing Services to generate $300 million in revenue this year and that after years of shrinking ad revenue. Viacom forecasts that ad revenues for the fourth fiscal quarter will actually be up.

Laura Molen, Mark Marshall

Titles: Executive VP, Lifestyle and Hispanic Advertising Sales Group, NBCUniversal; Executive VP, Entertainment Advertising Sales, NBCUniversal
2017 Ad Revenue: $3.397 billion**
Outlook: Cable networks are an integral part of NBCUniversal’s expansive television portfolio. Entertainment networks, including USA Network and Syfy, are ratcheting up high-profile programming. USA recently announced a new country-music competition show headlined by Shania Twain and Jake Evans. Its lifestyle networks — Bravo, E!, Oxygen — boast strong connections with consumers that benefit advertisers. With NBCU joining the OpenAP audience-targeting consortium, advertisers will have a broader pool of viewers they can reach using data-driven buying techniques.           

Ed Erhardt

Title: President, Global Sales and Marketing
Company: ESPN
2017 Ad Revenue: $2.609 billion*
Outlook: Live sports events continue to be attractive as on-demand viewing reduces ratings of on-demand programming. That leaves ESPN in a pretty strong position, despite its well-publicized decline in subscribers. Under new president James Pitaro, ESPN continues to position itself as an alternative to primetime for a broader range of products, not just beer and razors, with a large number of women tuning in. In April, ESPN launched its new app and its direct-to-consumer streaming product ESPN+, designed to capture the attention of sports fans and cord cutters and create additional advertising opportunities for sponsors.

Peter Olsen

Title: Executive VP, Advertising Sales
Company: A+E Networks
2017 Ad Revenue: $1.491 billion *
Outlook: At its upfront event in March, Olson promised media buyers that A+E Networks was planning to deliver “no gimmicks, just results.” The company’s networks, led by A&E, History and Lifetime, are doubling down on real-life story telling and it has signed deals with prominent women including Leah Remini, Elizabeth Vargas and Gretchen Carlson. A+E has also been aggressively pressing its work with Data Plus Math, the company getting attention for its attribution platform, which should provide marketers with a scorecard on what media work best and, within TV, which networks and shows really make the cash register ring.

Marianne Gambelli

Title: President, Advertising Sales
Company: Fox News
2017 Ad Revenue: $1.068 billion*
Outlook: With a hurricane of political news blowing across the nation, the category is gaining audiences, and those curious eyeballs are attracting ad dollars from additional advertisers looking for big numbers and live viewing. President Donald Trump’s favorite network has maintained its ranking as the No. 1 cable news channel and viewership is increasing for Fox Business Network. Fox News Channel has also been updating its digital product to attract users and advertisers. With tightly contested midterm elections coming up in November, viewership is expected to rise even more on Fox News and its cable news competitors, all of which will be offering special election-year political news and results packages at premium prices to sponsors.

Scott Collins

Title: President, National Advertising Sales
Company: AMC Networks
2017 Ad Revenue: $960 million**
Outlook: Known best for The Walking Dead, AMC has parlayed owning television’s No. 1 scripted series into big increases in ad rates over the past few years, despite declining viewership for the zombie apocalypse drama. And at a time when “peak TV” conditions are ratcheting up competition for viewers, AMC is doubling down on burnishing its reputation for airing high-quality scripted programming at scale on networks that gladly accept advertising. This year, AMC is also rolling out its data-driven advertising unit, featuring Aurora software that optimizes campaigns across networks.

Ed Georger

Title: Executive VP, Advertising Sales and Digital Media
Company: Crown Media Family Networks
2017 Ad Revenue: $505.9 million *
Outlook: Like the little engine that could, Crown Media’s Hallmark Channels keep increasing viewership with family-friendly and advertiser-safe programming, especially during the fourth-quarter holiday season, which is crucial to a whole range of marketers. Hallmark Channel continues to prosper with its focus on other holidays — Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. — and its support of pet-related projects, including its Kitten Bowl. Crown is producing additional movies for its maturing Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel and, at a time when many are looking for skinnier bundles, is pushing another linear network with Hallmark Drama.

Louis Carr

Title President, Media Sales
Company: BET
2017 Ad Revenue: $313.0 million*
Outlook: With linear ratings rising for the past three quarters, BET has maintained its status as the No. 1 cable network among African-Americans, a title it has held for 17 consecutive seasons. The network continues to emphasize how its viewers are avid consumers in many categories, including movies. BET special events — such as the BET Awards, the Hip Hop Awards and the Soul Train Awards — also pull big numbers. BET is big on social media and digital, and its BET Experience is the prototype in Viacom’s strategy for bringing fans to live events.

Jon Lafayette
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.