Player Profile: Lazarus rises on two rungs of TBS sales team ladder

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AOL Time Warner executives, trumpeting the synergies their merger has yielded, overlooked one: Mark Lazarus' on-screen role in next month's TNT original movie "Monday Night Mayhem."

Mr. Lazarus, the newly named president of entertainment sales and marketing for Turner Broadcasting System, will make a cameo in the production about Howard Cosell and the heyday of ABC's "Monday Night Football."

When Mr. Lazarus makes his professional acting debut-he says he hasn't acted since "What's for Lunch Charlie?" in the third grade-it will mark the latest highlight for the executive. Last month, Mr. Lazarus, who was named president of Turner Sports in 1999, was tapped by TBS Chairman-CEO Jamie Kellner to add the entertainment sales duties, where he'll take over for long-time veteran Joe Uva, who left for Omnicom Group's Optimum Media Direction as worldwide president-CEO.

Mr. Lazarus, 38, is now in charge of well over a $1 billion in ad sales annually spanning TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and others. Plus, he continues to oversee programming and ad sales for Turner Sports, which includes Wimbledon, Nascar, Atlanta Braves games and the National Basketball Association.

Mr. Lazarus grew up around sports media and probably knew the lingo and logistics early on. In "Monday Night Mayhem," he plays his father, John-at the time, a salesman at ABC Sports who became a household name in the New York media community, retiring this fall from TN Media. The younger Mr. Lazarus began his career as a buyer and planner at what is now Cordiant Communication Group's Bates USA.

"Mark has long had the respect of the advertising and sports communities as a next-generation leader," said Mr. Kellner in a statement. Mr. Lazarus said he has no plans to hire a deputy such as Liz Janneman, who served as exec VP Turner Entertainment Sales under Mr. Uva. Ms. Janneman left her post shortly before Mr. Uva did.

"At this point I have very talented deputies in place on both the sports business and sales business," Mr. Lazarus said. "I'm not coming in to take over a broken system. At the heart of my mission is continuity."

Mr. Lazarus' job will no doubt be more challenging as executive suites pull the reins in on spending to acquire programming, especially as the ad market continues to limp along. An example is the negotiations for the NBA games, where Turner and General Electric Co.'s NBC apparently initially balked at the price tag the league wanted for them to re-up. The negotiations were opened up to competition from the Walt Disney Co., which would place games on ABC and ESPN. Still, Mr. Lazarus said he is unfazed by the conservative movement.

"It's a business reality," he said. "We're in a time when revenue streams are not as vibrant as they were a few years ago. Our obligation to our shareholders is to operate our business in a way that allows us to maximize our bottom-line results. And part of that is by selling better and smarter, part of that is by acquiring programming better and smarter and part of it is just plain being efficient in how we operate our business."

Mr. Kellner will likely continue to spearhead most of the entertainment programming decisions. Mr. Lazarus continues in a similar role with his Turner Sports responsibilities, like his notable move to hire Charles Barkley for NBA commentary. In some ways, life comes full circle: Mr. Barkley is becoming a household broadcasting name just as Mr. Cosell was two decades ago.

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