Disney-ABC TV Group Reorganizes Ad Sales Under One Umbrella

The New Division Will Be Led by Rita Ferro

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Credit: Disney-ABC TV Group
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Disney-ABC TV Group is finally taking the plunge, with plans to go to market as one portfolio heading into the TV upfronts.

The company is reorganizing its ad sales group under one umbrella, led by Rita Ferro, who has served as the head of ad sales for Disney Media since 2010. So instead of ABC and Freeform negotiating with advertisers separately, for example, marketers can now buy the portfolio altogether.

Ms. Ferro will oversee all advertising sales functions and ad revenue-generating strategies for the company's domestic entertainment, news and kids linear, digital TV and radio businesses. This includes ABC, Disney channels, Freeform and Radio Disney. She will also continue to lead the integrated sales team for the Walt Disney Company's online, mobile and social offerings. Ms. Ferro will report to Bruce Rosenblum, president–business operations, Disney-ABC TV Group.

ESPN ad sales, however, will continue to operate separately.

The decision to combine ad sales across networks is a reaction to the changes in the market place and a response to needs of clients, said Ben Sherwood, president, Disney-ABC TV Group. Ultimately Disney-ABC TV Group is looking to take a more client-centric approach to ad sales, he said.

"This will allow us to provide better solutions for clients and agencies; make advertising on-air and online more impactful and I think the business will make more money," he said.

Ms. Ferro added that the marketplace has significantly changed in the last 12 to 24 months and that the decision to unify ad sales is reflective of the need to deliver unified client solutions and cross-platform measurement.

Disney-ABC TV Group joins NBC Univeral, Turner and Fox Networks Group, who have combined the ad sales divisions across broadcast, cable and digital.

This also comes as Geri Wang, who had been leading ad sales at ABC since 2010, plans to retire next month.

As part of the restructure, the ad sales division will be organized into three groups.

The brand, revenue and yield management division, will be responsible for optimizing and managing business opportunities across the portfolio and provide marketers with increased scale as viewing behavior changes. The division will be led by Debbie Richman, who previously served as senior VP-primetime sales, ABC.

The client and audience solutions team will develop specialized client and category specific strategies that utilize marketplace and audience data. It will be headed by Laura Nathanson, who previously served as exec VP-sales and marketing, Freeform.

The sales and marketing team will work to maximize linear and digital agency advertising opportunities across the portfolio and include a full-service in-house creative agency that can create branded content for clients. Debra O'Connell, who served a president-national TV sales at ABC, will lead the division.

The heads of all three divisions will report to Ms. Ferro.

While ABC, Disney channels and Freeform will work together during the upfronts to deliver solutions to clients, Mr. Ferro said each network group will still host its own upfront presentation this spring.

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