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Disney Sets New Ad-Sales Structure for ABC, Freeform, Disney Channels

Variety logo Variety 2/8/2017 Brian Steinberg
© Provided by Variety

With only a few months to go before the start of TV’s “upfront” market, Disney said it would revamp the way it sells ABC, Freeform and its Disney entertainment cable networks to advertisers, in the hopes of getting more sponsors to purchase ad time across many of the company’s outlets.

The company confirmed a Variety report that it had named Rita Ferro, as the new president of ad sales for Disney ABC. She previously supervised ad outreach for the company’s digital outlets and kids’-focused cable networks and Radio Disney, and will now supervise all efforts for the company’s Disney ABC Television Group, which includes ABC and Freeform. She will continue to run ad outreach for Disney’s online, mobile and social properties. Ferro  will report to Bruce Rosenblum, president of business operations for Disney|ABC Television.

The move puts one person in charge of selling all the Disney entertainment-TV assets as more advertisers insist upon being able to buy ads across a company’s various media properties, rather than having to negotiate separate deals for each of the various broadcast, cable, and digital outlets under a media conglomerate’s umbrella. Disney recently had different senior ad-sales executives for ABC, Freeform and Ferro’s portfolio.

“The business is evolving and changing, and mobile and VOD and all of the other platforms are becoming much more important as part of the entire media mix,” said Ferro in an interview Wednesday. She said the company had begun early meetings with ad clients in regard to the upfront, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their advertising for the coming season.

With its move, Disney is building a structure mirroring that of rivals such as NBCUniversal, Time Warner’s Turner or  21st Century Fox, all of which have placed the majority of their media brands under the oversight of a single executive. She will not have oversight of Disney’s ESPN, where Ed Erhardt supervises sales outreach. But Ferro said that she expected to work closely with ESPN because “there are much bigger opportunities when we bring ESPN into the conversation.”

Ferro will rely on three ad-sales executives who have led efforts at various pieces of the Disney ABC empire. Debbie Richman, who had been senior vice president of ABC’s ad sales, will serve as executive vice president of revenue and yield management, and will be responsible for managing business opportunities across the media portfolio. Laura Nathanson, who had been executive vice president of sales and marketing at Freeform, will become executive vice president of client and audience solutions, responsible for developing ideas for specific clients. Debra O’Connell. formerly president of national TV sales for ABC’s owned stations, will become executive vice president of sales and marketing, responsible for dealing directly with agencies and for an in-house creative agency that can devise interesting ideas for potential advertisers.

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