Viacom Consolidates Advertising Under Lucas

Viacom has consolidated its advertising sales operations under Jeff Lucas, sources said.

Lucas had been in charge of ad sales for Viacom’s entertainment networks, including MTV and Comedy Central. He adds Nickelodeon to his portfolio in the new structure.

The move comes at a time when big media companies face a challenging advertising market. TV ad revenues are growing slowly, if at all as advertisers shift marketing dollars to digital advertising opportunities.

In reaction, companies including 21st Century Fox, Comcast, Turner Broadcasting, Discovery Communications and AMC Networks have consolidated the leadership of their ad sales units and shrunken their staffs.

The consolidation will help as the TV ad market pivots from selling ads on individual networks to multiplatform sales designed to reach target consumers across a media companies’ portfolio of assets, whether broadcast, cable or digital.

Instead of traditional sales people, media companies will be needing more data specialists who can use technology to identify the viewers advertisers want to reach and allocate appropriate inventory to those clients, and computer systems that can manage inventory across platforms and automate some of the ad sales process.

Viacom’s ad revenues have been shrinking as ratings have dropped, partly because the young viewers that the company’s networks attract aren’t effectively counted by Nielsen as they use digital and mobile devices to consume programming.

Under Lucas, Viacom’s entertainment networks set up a unit called Velocity designed to help marketers integrate themselves better into programming as it migrates across platforms. Last week at its upfront, Nickelodeon unveiled a new marketing initiative called Inside Out.

It was unclear whether Jim Perry, who has been head of sales for Nickelodeon, will decide to stay with the company.

At Viacom the moves, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, come as the company undergoes a cost-saving reorganization. The company restructured its networks into two groups from three following the announcement that longtime music group head Van Toffler planned to leave to company.

The company has not yet spelled out how many staffers will lose their jobs or how much money it expects to save.

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.