Viacom, Others Tout Cross-Platform Sales

CBS is the home of Survivor, so it shouldn't be strange to hear Mel Karmazin-the president of parent Viacom Inc.-point to cross-platform selling as avital survival skill to ward off an ad-sales slump.

Earlier this month, a panel of buyers and sellers at the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau's Cable Advertising Conference here also expected the cross-media strategy to continue in a climate of media and advertising-industry consolidation.

The CAB estimated that 1,400 people attended the half-day gathering, up 10 percent.

Karmazin, the CAB's keynoter, gave that strategy a ringing endorsement when he told attendees that multiplatform sales growth is one reason his company will boost ad sales over a year that other media companies are finding difficult.

Its dedicated Viacom Plus unit booked 15 cross-platform buys on the very day Karmazin addressed the conference, he claimed. The arrangements cut across five to eight of its divisions.

"This synergy thing has worked well" at Viacom, he said.

The next step, Karmazin said, will be packaging such CBS events as the Grammy Awards, the Country Music Association Awards and the NCAA Men's Basketball Championships across multiple platforms by incorporating MTV: Music Television, VH1, CMT: Country Music Television and Viacom-owned Web sites. (Soon after he spoke, VH1's Web site began promoting the Grammys.)

Additional media assets could eventually be added to Viacom's integrated packages, Karmazin said, because the company is interested in buying more cable networks and TV stations in the top 20 markets, as well as other properties.

During the panel, Mark Stewart-executive vice president of McCann-Erickson's Universal McCann media-buying unit-said cross-platform clients usually want "a better deal and a deeper relationship" than they can get from buying piecemeal.

"It's not about what [media] assets you have in your portfolio," he said. "It's about what audiences you have in your portfolio.Help us understand your customer."

Shortly thereafter, Universal McCann announced the formation of the UM Cross-Media Council to coordinate such media buys.

Starcom Mediavest Group senior vice president Kate Lynch predicted such integrated buys could soar to 50 percent of all deals in a few years, up from 15 percent to 25 percent at present.