Ross assumes Abruzzese role

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Wasting no time in filling outgoing CBS advertising president Joe Abruzzese's position, the network named JoAnn Ross president of network sales-the first woman to head an advertising sales group at a U.S. broadcast network.

Ms. Ross's move from exec VP-advertising to the top spot was anticipated by many media agency and network executives.

"Ultimately, it was pretty evident what the decision should be," said Les Moonves, president-CEO of the Viacom-owned network. "She's No. 2 at a company that is on a bullet upwards. The network had its best upfront in history. JoAnn is unbelievably well liked inside and outside the company."

Ms. Ross will preside over the network's entertainment, sports, daytime, news, late night, UPN network and Internet operations. "I've been preparing for this job over the past three years," said Ms. Ross, 49. "I just didn't know when or where it would happen."

Ms. Ross has been at the network for a decade. Prior to CBS, she worked for four years at what is now Walt Disney Co.'s ABC. But Ms. Ross came up on the agency side, employed mostly with Bozell, New York, in the `80s, except for one upfront period in 1984 spent with Young & Rubicam, New York.

"JoAnn really deserves it," said Rino Scanzoni, president-national broadcast, WPP Group's Media-edge:cia, New York. "She was really Joe's right hand, and has been involved from the get-go. She has great relationships. She's a great negotiator. She makes the process fun and a positive experience."

Promoting from within the network has benefits. "This is a change that everyone who works here is comfortable with," said Ms. Ross. "It also represents to the street a seamless transition. It is not going to take a long time for people to get used to."

Still, CBS could see some change. There are reports that Mr. Abruzzese may poach some CBS talent from his new perch as president-advertising sales for Discovery Networks. "I think Joe will probably have conversations," said Ms. Ross, "but I'm not concerned."

opportune time

She ascends at an opportune time. Not only did Viacom, led by the strength of its TV advertising results, post its strongest-ever third quarter last week (see story, P. 10) but CBS has made significant gains in ratings over the last two years. It is also narrowing the gap with rival NBC in the crucial adults 18-49 demographic. CBS has grown just under 10% in the first four weeks of the fall season in ratings among adults 18-49, currently posting a Nielsen Media Research 4.0 rating and 10.7 share. In total viewers, CBS is No. 1.

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