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rwin Gotlieb, president-CEO of MacManus Group's media-buying service TeleVest, is known as one of the savviest of upfront negotiators. Along with Rino Scanzoni, exec VP-director of national broadcast, Mr. Gotlieb has access to the largest network TV budget from a single shop: more than $1 billion. Advertising Age Media Editor Chuck Ross talked to Mr. Gotlieb about his views on this year's upfront.

Advertising Age: You and Rino are legendary upfront negotiators. Many in the media business have the perception that TeleVest is you and Rino.

Mr. Gotlieb: I'm glad you asked that. We have six group directors, below Rino, Donna Salvador and myself, and they're all home grown, they've all been here 10 years or more, they've all grown up using our systems, our philosophies, with the mindset that we nurture here, and they're all terrific.

We have all the confidence in the world in them. TeleVest is not just Rino and myself.

AA: With the traditional broadcast networks losing more and more viewers to cable, do you see the dollars following?

Mr. Gotlieb: I think some of that's already happened. It's happened gradually over the last few years. It will continue to happen for some time.

Audiences will move around. The dollars chase the audience. But there have always been premiums associated with larger audiences, and lower pricing established against small audience units. What happens, over time, is that things become homogenized.

There are far fewer 20-rated units today than 20 years ago. The gold standard [of traditional network prime time] keeps shrinking, and the other entities start to grow. And as they get closer together the homogenization process continues. It's not going to stop.

On the flip side, the established cable networks are getting challenged by new cable networks. So there are lots of dynamics happening at the same time.

The bad news is that our jobs become more complex, more difficult, from the viewpoint that we have to evaluate more alternatives, and handle more activity, which is labor intensive.

The good news is that the fundamental dynamics of the marketplace improve also, because instead of having three absolute must-buy vendors, you wind up with 100 vendors that are relatively interchangable.

AA: Is is coming to a point where for most of your clients you'd just buy two networks and then go into cable during the upfront?

Mr. Gotlieb: I won't talk about clients. What I will say is that you don't necessarily need three networks in prime time. You probably need two for any given demographic. You've had demographic polarization. Each network out there is going after more and more of a niche. You've got NBC, which is still very, very broad. But the other guys are getting more and more niche, CBS is older, and so on.

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