BAKER SETS CROSS-MEDIA SALES STRATEGY FOR E! NET: TV AD EXECUTIVE SEES INTEGRATED MARKETING DEALS AS WAVE OF THE FUTURE FOR MEDIA

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To be a good leader, perhaps you need to be a good follower -- but not in the traditional sense. Historically, executives who get ahead follow in the footsteps of their superiors. Neil Baker, 40, who now heads the E! Entertainment advertising sales division as senior VP, has indeed followed the same path as Dave Cassaro, who had Mr. Baker's job and now has been promoted to exec VP.

The two executives have virtually identical career paths -- marked by similar executive positions virtually around the TV dial at ABC, CBS and Fox. But, until now, they have never worked at the same company at the same time.

"You could swap out the dates on Dave's resume and put my name in," Mr. Baker said.

EXPANDING COMPETITORS

At E!, his major task will be not just to raise the value of the network's brand for advertisers, but also expand its circle of competitors beyond other cable networks to other big-name TV organizations.

A prime objective: to make E! a destination for integrated marketing packages, similar to Fox and News Corp. One, or CBS with CBS Plus. These groups pool many of their broadcast, cable, print, Internet and other assets to offer unique marketing opportunities.

SEEKING UBIQUITY

The aim is "to reach the entertainment consumer wherever they are looking -- TV, print, online and international," he said.

This means offering up stronger cross-media sales opportunities among the E! network: style., its new rookie cable network; E! Online, its Internet division; and E! The Magazine, an entertainment title set to be launched later this year.

"This is the way [of] the future . . . for the medium," Mr. Baker said. "If some buyers don't like the integrated marketing approach, you can always buy us separately."

Network branding is now a somewhat tired cliche, Mr. Baker said, but E! needs to build its name. In that, Fox is a good model.

"E! has young, affluent consumers," he said. "The skew is similar to Fox."

That's a place he knows well. A former Fox VP-group sales, Mr. Baker was instrumental in developing the lucrative automotive advertising category for its prime-time and sports programming.

Before Fox, Mr. Baker spent seven years at CBS as an account exec and was director of affiliate relations at CBS. Before CBS, he was national sales account exec at TV sales rep Katz Television and had put in time as a district supervisor at ABC.

ROBUST CABLE UPFRONT

This year, Mr. Baker sees a robust cable upfront, with the industry pulling in perhaps $700 million in additional money this season.

"There is a convergence of major events -- the Olympics, the millennium, the election and growing corporate profits -- that will all throw off [advertising] dollars," he predicted

In previous years, Mr. Baker could easily succumb to exhaustion. The network upfront is conducted over the course of a few, intense days and often sleepless nights. Quite a change from the slower-moving cable marketplace.

"I go from seeing the sun come up at Fox to fairly normal business hours at E!,"

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