"We had a terrible reputation on the street ... we had to build a new brand, I was able to do that," says Mr. Lucas. "We got new computer systems, organized the form of our sales presentation and forged a strong relationship with the programming department."
"He is a quick study," adds Bonnie Hammer, president of USA Network and Sci Fi Channel. "He took advantage of both programming teams and figured out how to position two very different channels."
The link with programming has paid off given this Media Maven's deep entrenchment with the branded entertainment community. Mr. Lucas reels off a list of recent projects including, "The Last Ride" with General Motors Corp., "House Wars" with Home Depot, "Nashville Star" and, more recently, "Five Days To Midnight."
While "Five Days to Midnight" didn't quite live up to ratings expectations, it was something of a product integration coup for both Sci Fi Channel and agency OMD. The Omnicom Group-owned agency committed eight of its accounts to the show. They included Nissan North America, McDonald's Corp., Visa USA, FedEx Corp., Sony PlayStation, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., Cingular Wireless and Clorox Co. The deal had an estimated value of around $3 million, according to executives.
"He lobbies hard for his clients," says Ms. Hammer, "But he'd listen if you said that might be one step too far. As long as there was logic behind it. He'd respect that decision."
Ms. Hammer says Mr. Lucas has helped bring in substantial revenue increases at the channels. Ratings for both services were up this summer on the strength of hit shows such as "The 4400," a USA series about the return of long-missing people.
Over drinks at New York's Citarella, a frequent after-work hangout for advertising executives, Mr. Lucas mulls his good fortune. NBC's merger with Vivendi Universal Entertainment (parent to USA and Sci Fi) brought Mr. Lucas back into the company of his former bosses Keith Turner, president-sales and marketing, NBC Television Networks, and Randy Falco, group president, NBC Television Network. Mr. Lucas had been VP-sales for NBC's Olympics before joining the Vivendi Universal operation (and he still got to go to Athens). Mr. Lucas now manages sales for Bravo in addition to his responsibilities at USA, Sci Fi and Trio. "Our focus has been to offer something of value," says Mr. Lucas.