PLAYER PROFILE: Popkowski wants his MTV: Lands strategic post at net

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Since the beginning of his stint at MTV Networks, John Popkowski has made media executives break dance to a different tune.

For instance, soon after arriving at MTV Networks from Turner Broadcasting Sales in the early 1990s, he suggested to advertisers that despite its languishing ratings, the network was undervalued. He then put in place unheard-of cost-per-thousand price increases.

Agency executives were furious, but their clients -- teen-targeted advertisers -- wanted their MTV and paid the price. It was a major coup for Mr. Popkowski.

REVENUE RISES 25.1%

This was no one hit wonder, however. Mr. Popkowski, head of advertising sales for MTV Networks (most recently as president of MTV Networks Advertising Sales U.S.) has presided over the network during a time when it posted a whopping 25.1% average increase in ad revenue per year.

Now, Mr. Popkowski has moved to a larger playing field, with his appointment as exec VP at MTV Networks. He plays a role in the overall strategic direction and sits on a select executive committee that oversees the networks -- including CMT, MTV, MTV2, Nick, Nick at Nite, TNN, TV Land, VH1 and the new VH1 Classic.

"I now get involved in every facet of the company. I have some input into everything," Mr. Popkowski said.

The move is significant considering this year has been tough for media executives such as Mr. Popkowski. While tight market conditions generally made TV sellers giddy with big price increases, this wasn't the case for kids' TV programming. A glut of kids' TV programming ratings points left many networks searching for slim price increases on ad time.

Mr. Popkowski, however, set to work drumming up new business for Nickelodeon. "We have devoted a new team to just that, and we've had 49 new accounts come in."

Nick struck an unusual kids' safety promotional and ad deal with Ford Motor Co. around the network's "Blue's Clues" program. It was the first time an automaker bought advertising time on the kids network.

ATYPICAL ADVERTISERS

Mr. Popkowski said there are other, atypical kids' advertisers that Nickelodeon is targeting.

"Why wouldn't a Morgan Stanley or Citicorp [advertise]?" he asked. "It could be teaching the value of a dollar; knowing the difference between a stock and bond."

More recently, MTV has seen its biggest growth from its other networks, such as TV Land, which runs classic sitcoms and dramas from the 1950s, '60s and '70s."TV Land is beginning to become huge," he said. Although off a small base, "[ad] revenues have gone up 700%," said Mr. Popkowski, who wouldn't be more specific. Ratings, he said, "are up almost eightfold."

The flagship network, MTV, continues to be a major focus. The goal: Keeping the brand current for young adults, who can quickly shift their popular culture tastes, and thus, cause seismic rumblings for TV programmers.

"Anytime you become a big business, there are challenges. Rolling Stone pulled it off," Mr. Popkowski said. "You have to watch that you don't lose your irreverent persona."

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