Five Spot: Vicki Lins President and CEO, CTAM

Vicki Lins is president and CEO of CTAM,  a marketing organization focused on the media entertainment and technology industry. One of CTAM’s projects is to organize, twice a year, press tours that bring together members of the Television Critics Association and a range of content companies to talk about network strategies and let critics ask questions directly to show creators and stars. The last such gathering, in January, included sessions with HBO, Discovery, FX, Oxygen, AMC, Hulu and Apple TV Plus, among others. This summer, the tour, like so many other events, is going virtual, with CTAM planning on half days between Aug. 3 and Aug. 7. Participating networks have not yet been announced. Lins, who joined CTAM in 2015 after stints as chief marketing officer at United Way Worldwide and Clear Channel Outdoor, caught up with B+C content director Kent Gibbons about the whys and hows of a virtual critics’ tour.

Vicki Lins, president and CEO, CTAM

Vicki Lins, president and CEO, CTAM (Image credit: CTAM)

How do these get-togethers, between critics and show creators and talent, fit the CTAM mission and inform the public more than they would be otherwise? CTAM exists to strengthen the industry business model, build collective brand and market best-in-class consumer experiences including the content they love. The press tour is an opportunity for the networks to bolster their marketing efforts, and for some networks it is an opportunity to expose critics to content they may have otherwise passed over. The immediate coverage during the CTAM portion of this year’s TCA Winter Press Tour secured over 10,000 press mentions in one week. That type of exposure is quite valuable when you take into account the majority of the coverage spans the six months between tours.

Do you think much will be lost by not having the questions and answers be face to face? Not really. When we’re live in the dark ballroom, talent cannot see the critics while sitting on stage with bright lights pointed at them. In all seriousness, the pandemic and cancellation of the TCA tour drove the decision to present virtually. The opportunity at hand for our industry has been to step up and deliver. It’s allowed us to create new opportunities, to reinvent traditional engagement and move forward in different ways. CTAM and our participating networks have had a lot of ideas and this allows us to flex our creative muscles. 

Might there be an upside, that talent will participate who might not have come to a live session? Feel free to name names. Scheduling talent is always a challenge, and there’s a chance that all of us being at home could change the dimension of participation. Currently, we’re not in a position to talk about the details behind the schedule. Networks always try to put their best foot forward. We’re all very enthusiastic about the lineup. 

How has the rise of streaming services affected the TCA tour? There’s more content available to consumers and they are viewing more content than ever before, making it harder to break through. The competitive nature of the environment makes the tour more important during this time of Peak TV. Having a focused forum for programmers to showcase their work and tell their stories becomes more important. The press tour creates opportunities for networks to expose consumers to content where they are and potentially expand their audience or deepen their existing relationship with the consumer. 

Do you have a favorite moment from TCA sessions past? I love the creative energy that flows throughout the tour. I have dozens of favorite moments ranging from learning about shows I want to watch, to hallway conversations with talent, to laughing out loud with the critics about something funny — or sometimes ridiculous — someone said on stage.

Jennifer Aniston (l.) and Reese Witherspoon’s winter TCA panel on Apple TV Plus’s The Morning Show.

Lins organized Jennifer Aniston (l.) and Reese Witherspoon’s winter TCA panel on Apple TV Plus’s The Morning Show. (Image credit: David Livingston/Getty Images)
Bonus Five

What is currently on your TV binge list? Everything being presented during the virtual tour. 

What is on your travel bucket list? My husband, 13-year-old son and I all love to travel. A safari is high on our list as our next family adventure. 

What is your favorite podcast?  Thinking Out Loud, of course. [Hosted by Vicki Lins.]

What books are on your nightstand?  Everything is on my tablet. I’m always reading multiple books, different genres at the same time, all the time. Right now, one of them is The Teenage Brain — go figure. 

What is your most recent memorable meal? I have to thank my friend and colleague Jim Maiella from AMC Networks for recommending Chicago’s famous Lou Malnati’s pizza. We had their deep-dish pies delivered to New York and they totally lived up to their reputation. It made for a fun family meal during lockdown.