Karmazin taking no excuses

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[las vegas] When the going gets tough, sales managers at CBS and other Viacom broadcasting properties had better get tougher.

That was the word from Viacom President-Chief Operating Officer Mel Karmazin, at CBS' affiliates meeting here last week, who said, "Most of our sales managers are wimps" for selling ad inventory at lower prices than last year, before the bottom had fallen out of the ad market.

"There's always somebody who can sell it cheaper," said Mr. Karmazin, who is adding personnel and pressure to Viacom's sales organizations to keep the media giant on target to make $25 billion in revenue, leaving $3 billion in free cash flow this year.

As long as national magazines are getting higher costs-per-thousand to reach fewer people, and while ads fill local newspapers that people spend less time reading than they do watching TV, Mr. Karmazin said he's "never going to accept from our salespeople that their numbers are down from last year."

Last year, the networks took in a record $8.2 billion in an upfront blitz that lasted less than a week. This year, when some analysts predict a decrease of perhaps $1 billion, Mr. Karmazin vows to wait out the advertisers who are crying poor now and let them pay higher prices in the scatter market during the 2001-02 season, which he predicts will be "really strong."

"There's an awful lot of posturing going on right now between advertisers saying they don't have any money and broadcasters sitting there saying, `We ain't going to sell it to you cheap.' So we'll see what happens and who blinks."'

Mr. Karmazin said last week's record deal (AA, May 7) in which Procter & Gamble Co. will spend $300 million in one year to advertise across Viacom's platforms is proof "it really is possible to convince large companies to spend money with us." But he said consolidation on Madison Avenue has made it harder to leverage advertisers. However, he said, "There are many more [deals] coming up."

Ms. Greppi is national editor of Electronic Media

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