Universal TV Ad Team Eyes Cross-Media Deals

Universal Television Group has restructured its ad department in a bid to consolidate its contact approach and emphasize program sponsorships and cross-platform deals.

In the process, it named veteran media buyer Dan Rank and three former TV network executives to sales positions.

The changes were made by Jeff Lucas, president of ad sales for Universal Television Group Networks, which houses USA Network, Sci Fi Channel, Trio and News World International — networks formerly under the USA Cable umbrella of USA Networks Inc.

Rank, managing director of broadcast TV at Omnicom Group's OMD USA media-buying operation, will go from buying to selling time, as Chicago-based executive vice president of ad sales for Universal TV.

Starting Dec. 2, Rank will report to Lucas and oversee the Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles offices.

Rank will be involved with such clients and agencies as McDonald's Corp., Sears, Roebuck & Co., Leo Burnett USA and the Detroit automakers, said Lucas.

Interestingly, a year ago former Turner Entertainment Group sales and marketing president Joe Uva took the exact opposite route, going to the buy side as OMD Worldwide's CEO.

The reorganization — which involved no sales departures — was inspired by agency complaints that "too many people call on them," said Lucas. That should be alleviated by having salespeople pitch several networks, rather than just one — and by Universal's intent to pursue integrated or cross-media deals.

To that end, Lucas tapped former Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. senior vice president of affiliate sales Kevin McAuliffe as senior vice president of cross-platform initiatives.

Lucas also named 13-year NBC veteran Mike Tedone — who served most recently as the Peacock's vice president of pricing and planning — as executive vice president of national sales; and former UPN vice president of pricing and planning Lloyd Schloss as senior vice president of operations.

Last spring, said Lucas, USA Network and Sci Fi had "one of our most successful upfronts ever" — an upfront in which volume reportedly doubled, due to steep discounting.

This year, the sales focus will be on Universal's Emerging Networks Group. Trio, for instance, will soon pitch accounts not just with traditional avails, but with "a piece of our real estate" — category-exclusive marketing-and-promotion opportunities.

For instance, a beer or auto account might be interested in tying in with Trio's upcoming "Country Month," one of its themed programming packages, said Lucas.

Sci Fi's biggest programming evevt yet — Steven Spielberg's $40 million miniseries Taken
— "has been sold out for the past month," said Lucas.

Major sponsors for the miniseries on alien abductions, which starts Dec. 2 in two-hour installments over 10 weeknights, are General Motors Corp. and IBM Corp.