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Vertical Teamwork Spells Success

Buena Vista Television President Janice Marinelli won't be bringing a new first-run strip to NATPE this year. But she and her staff will still have their hands full.

Their tasks include persuading stations to invite Tony Danza's struggling freshman talk show back for a second season; working to extend carriage agreements for the morning talk show Live with Regis and Kelly through 2009; and signing deals for Buena Vista's other two first-run syndies: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Ebert & Roeper.

Marinelli is also responsible for selling Disney TV shows and movies to television stations and cable networks, along with pay-per-view and video-on-demand services.

With a large, vertically integrated company like Disney, there is more to sell than just syndicated first run; there are the giant Disney film library and off-net shows as well.

Marinelli says, “We try to approach the business as to what's best for the company, as opposed to any one entity.”

As NATPE approaches, she is selling two new film packages with some pretty compelling titles. One of them, Buena Vista 9, includes National Treasure, TheAviator, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Finding Neverland. The other package, dubbed Imagination 9, includes Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Princess Diaries 2, The Haunted Mansion and 101 Dalmatians.

A 19-year Disney veteran, Marinelli was part of the 1998 team that negotiated the biggest pay-TV output deal in history, with Starz Encore. A year later, she was rewarded for that effort with a promotion to her current position.

Another of her great achievements was helping to orchestrate the record-breaking sale of Home Improvement into syndication. It began its second off-network cycle in 2002.

Marinelli joined Buena Vista in 1985 as an account executive. The New York native later served as director of sales, western division, before assuming the role of senior vice president, sales, BVT. She was named executive vice president in 1996 and president in 1999.

Many of her key managers have been with the company for more than a decade. That has created an environment where executives are comfortable challenging each other as they debate strategies for improving the business.

“We trust each other, rely on each other, share all aspects of the business,” she says. “I have an extremely strong team.” The team strives to stay in touch with the marketplace by spending lots of time with customers, listening to their concerns and soliciting suggestions while detailing Disney products.

Marinelli has wise advice for any sales executive: “We never try to take the approach that we know something better than our clients.”