Player Profile: Linden makes connection for NBC's cross-net deals

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NBC's Jay Linden is a hands-on guy-going all the way back to one his first jobs in the mid-1970s.

"My first sales job was walking into a store with the Sunday newspaper cut up, and convincing the guy to reduce his ad size in the Sunday Albany Times Union and give me the $300 a week for the 10 daytime units," said Mr. Linden, of his days at WTEN-TV Albany, N.Y. "And if [he] didn't have a commercial I would write and produce it for him."

Some thirty years later, Mr. Linden, now 51, is still doing similar work-trying to pull together many diverse services for clients. Only now it's for major national advertisers. Recently, Mr. Linden was promoted to exec VP, NBC Connect, NBC's cross-platform selling unit which packages deals across all NBC media entities.

Mr. Linden has been doing this job unofficially for a number of years. But cross-platform selling has become an increased focus with media companies pressed to keep sales growing in a competitive landscape. With the moves to create new cross-selling divisions at other media conglomerates-such as AOL Time Warner's Global Clients Solutions, Viacom's Viacom Plus, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Unlimited, and News Corp.'s News Corp One, NBC needed to step up its efforts.

"We are the last ones officially into the game," said Mr. Linden, who sells across all NBC network dayparts, as well as NBC stations, MSNBC, CNBC, Pax TV, and, in the future, Telemundo.

But Mr. Linden doesn't think coming late to the party puts the General Electric Co. unit behind the others. Every cross-selling group has its strength, and NBC has perhaps one of the best, according to some advertisers: For the last several years, NBC has dominated in the adults 18-49 arena. And, while many have predicted its demise in this key category, NBC still maintains its leadership. "We can aggregate a bigger, more valuable demographic, on television-cable or over the air-than anyone else," he said.

NBC doesn't go where other cross-media divisions go. It doesn't have big online services, big-block kids programming or theme parks. But it does have a strong position in what it does well. "Ours is not the breadth of the assets; it's the quality," he said. "We have adults 18 to 49 with money to spend."

Advertising executives seem to agree NBC's cross-platform selling could be successful-but only under certain conditions. "If they can be creative on the network, that's good because they have the No. 1 network," said Tim Spengler, exec VP-director of national broadcast, Initiative Media North America, Los Angeles. "But if the added value is in their smaller divisions, then it's not that exciting."

To date, Mr. Linden's group has done about 30 deals-albeit small ones-which range in value from $5 million to $15 milllion. But, he said, the template is there to expand.

"Jay is a great matchmaker," said Donna Salvatore, CEO of Bcom3 Group's MediaVest USA, New York. "He knows exactly which media assets to present to you to complement your brand's objectives."

Case in point: Mr. Linden offers an example about a large retailer looking to move into the service business from its commodity business. Mr. Linden said that MSNBC and CNBC viewers seek those services. Right now, that retailer is not on either of those networks.

"That is where the win-win is," Mr. Linden said. "When you can show somebody how to achieve their strategy. By showing them who was really watching your product. They never would have come to it themselves."

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