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Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith: Expect Splashier Storytelling on Bloomberg TV

Appeal to Broader Business Audience Also Likely

By Published on . 2

Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media Group, is slated to wrap up a 100-day review of the company in the coming weeks, when he is expected to offer recommendations on the future of the global media conglomerate's TV division and digital and print operations, including Bloomberg Businessweek.

Justin Smith is the CEO of Bloomberg Media Group.
Justin Smith is the CEO of Bloomberg Media Group.

His evaluation comes as parent company Bloomberg has seen a "softening" in the growth of its terminal sales worldwide. Bloomberg TV is reportedly losing roughly $100 million annually, with Businessweek draining close to $30 million. (Bloomberg was also expecting record revenues in 2013, according to Fortune magazine.)

Amid these losses, Bloomberg poached Mr. Smith from Atlantic Media last July (his first day was Sept. 18). At Atlantic Media, publisher of the more than 150-year-old Atlantic magazine, he helped swiftly reshape the company into a formidable player in the digital space.

Tackling Bloomberg Media, a vast company of roughly 2,000 employees, is a far broader and likely more challenging task. Barely four months into his new job, Mr. Smith has already begun placing his stamp, assigning Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel to lead its TV division (while overseeing the magazine as well). He has also placed a renewed emphasis on Bloomberg's digital video efforts, which attracted 34.7 million video views in the U.S. in December, a four-fold increase over the previous year, according to ComScore. Globally, Bloomberg ranks first in the business/finance category for video views and fourth for unique visitors, according to ComScore.

The company -- which fetches video ad rates of $75 to more than $100 per thousand viewers, a spokeswoman said -- publishes about 200 videos daily across its global sites. Many stem from Bloomberg TV, while others are produced by Bloomberg's digital video desk, which was established prior to Mr. Smith joining the company. Mr. Tyrangiel now manages the roughly 20 people on this desk. There's a similar operation in London and soon one in Hong Kong.

Ad Age spoke with Mr. Smith last week about digital video, as well as the future of Bloomberg TV, the losses at Businessweek, Michael Bloomberg's return and whether the company plans to buy the Financial Times. Our conversation has been lightly edited.

Advertising Age: Why should brands care about Bloomberg?

Justin Smith: The audience our content has and continues to attract across the whole world and across multiple platforms: digital, TV, radio, live events, magazines. Bloomberg is a media company that is expanding and that is seeking out opportunities for growth and for further expansion and further engagement with a global business audience at a time when a lot of traditional media is contracting and pulling back from their markets because of the pressure that's facing their media-only business model. That creates a great opportunity for Bloomberg Media because we're a broader business information company and have a broader business model.

Ad Age: Is reducing the losses at Businessweek and getting the magazine into the black important?

Mr. Smith: When we look at the financial performance of Businessweek, we don't look at it in a silo; we look at in the broader role it plays in Bloomberg L.P. The same is true for a lot of our media assets. It's a much broader perspective on the role of the Businessweek brand. It's a very different way of looking at than you suggest. We believe Businessweek makes contributions in all sorts of ways to Bloomberg LP, including the terminal business.

Ad Age: How does digital video production work at Bloomberg? Does most of it come from the TV division?

Mr. Smith: The majority is linear TV content -- about three-quarters -- which might be produced with a digital view to it. Our core linear TV asset has been the springboard, frankly, for a lot of our digital video efforts; the linkage of the two that has really been the center our strategy.

Our thinking was let's embed digital video in the heart of our linear TV efforts. We've trained the linear team to think through a digital lens and we've trained digital to think about it through a linear lens. We might run a package on TV that was produced by the digital team. On our digital site you'll see lots of digital video content that was produced for linear with an eye towards the digital.

Ad Age: Does Bloomberg TV need to be more broadly accessible? Would we ever see it as more of a CNBC -- or even a CNN -- that reaches beyond business media?

Mr. Smith: The vast majority of the content we produce is for the global business community -- their business interests, their financial interests, their work-related or professional-related interests. However, we are increasingly growing our media businesses and media platforms around the lifestyle side of this global business audience.

Ad Age: Are we going to see the kind of splashy packaging Josh Tyrangiel brought to Businessweek reflected on Bloomberg TV?

Mr. Smith: Remember I've been here four months. Josh began taking on the TV responsibility, plus Businessweek, one month ago, beginning in January, so we're sort of in the top of the first inning here. But the answer is yes. We're looking to bring that kind of storytelling to the TV platform.

Ad Age: Are you going to buy the Financial Times?

Mr. Smith: I think Mike Bloomberg says he buys it every day. He also buys The New York Times every day.

Ad Age: I'll take that as a no comment.

Mr. Smith: [No response.]

Ad Age: Speaking of Mr. Bloomberg, are you working with him closely?

Mr. Smith: It is true that we're working very near each other and he's very interested in the media business, as he is his entire business. Inasmuch as he's the owner of the company and interested in the business, the answer is yes.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article referred to Justin Smith "tackling Bloomberg News." Mr. Smith oversees Bloomberg Media Group; Bloomberg News is a separate division.

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