The move comes in the wake of CEO Tom Freston's dismissal from Viacom, and the pressure is on for MTV Networks to prove its digital strategy has a clear direction, one that points toward profits. MTV Networks management also hopes the reshuffle will silence critics who say it doesn't have the leverage it needs online.
'Buy scale across a demo'
"It will help us add scale and become more attractive to a host of other advertisers who aren't doing business on TV," said Nada Stirratt, exec VP-digital ad sales. "If an advertiser wants to buy scale across a demo, we're going to make that happen."
The sales organization had been organized by property -- for example, one staff for the newly acquired Atom Films, another for MTV.com, a third for Nick.com and so on.
Viacom has been criticized for missing the boat on MySpace, which instantly gave News Corp. almost 30 million unique visitors and grew to almost 80 million unique visitors in August, according to ComScore data. But Ms. Stirratt argues that MTV Networks does have online scale to work with, citing August numbers that show Viacom's aggregate sites rank second among entertainment sites with 32 million unique visitors. (Of course, entertainment is a self-defined designation, which doesn't include Fox Interactive Media, New York Times Digital or Yahoo.) In terms of streaming video, Viacom sites had 322 million streams viewed by more than 14 million unique streamers, ranking it sixth, behind Yahoo, MySpace, YouTube, Time Warner and Microsoft.
The new digital-sales strategy will offer behavior targeting, frequency capping and sequential ad serving, said Ms. Stirratt, who was brought over two months ago from Advertising.com. She reports to Hank Close, exec VP-ad sales. MTVN also hired Brad Herman, who was a VP at Advertising.com, to the new position of digital-ad operations, reporting to Mr. Close, and upped Kevin Arrix from VP-digital ad sales at Nickelodeon to a senior VP with oversight of the TV branded sites. MTV Networks will also sell online inventory to advertisers who aren't buying on air time.
"It's not revolutionary but it's a good way for them to diversify themselves and say 'we do offer nonintegrated cross-platform deals, we're a pretty strong property and we have good reach," said Patrick Benson, senior VP-director of digital marketing, DeutschMedia. "But as a standalone property I don't remember the last time I advertised on MTV without having some kind of cable relationship."