The fireworks started last night, March 24, 2014, with this screaming headline on the website of the New York Post’s notorious Page Six: "CNN’s head ad man defects over infighting."
The story, by Page Six guru Richard Johnson, says: "Look out for a big defection at Turner Broadcasting/CNN: Greg D’Alba, head of CNN ad sales, is leaving the company after 28 years. ‘He can’t take it anymore,’ a source close to D’Alba told me. ‘He can’t stand all the infighting and the politics.’"
Actually, D’Alba has been with Turner 27 years, and has run CNN ad sales since 2003.
The piece adds, " ‘Greg is an incredibly well-respected guy and has had great success over the years, but it’s been very hard since [CNN President Jeff] Zucker came,’ said my source.
"D’Alba and his team had trouble selling ads as CNN’s ratings plunged to a 20-year low earlier this year.
"And Zucker, the former head of NBC, hasn’t been able to stem the slide with his conversion of CNN from straight news to documentaries and infotainment."
Pretty savvy on the part of D’Alba’s people to get the word out before it was announced officially today that there has been a reorg at Turner Broadcasting, leaving D’Alba with the short stick and out of the company.
According to our good friend Brian Steinberg, writing in today’s online edition of Variety, Donna Speciale, who has been president of Turner Entertainment and Young Adult Ad Sales, now picks up responsibilities for CNN ad sales and some of the company’s digital assets as well.
Steinberg writes that Speciale is "a Madison Avenue veteran who once advised Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods how and where to allocate their advertising dollars … [who] joined Turner in 2012 from Publicis Groupe ad-buying firm MediaVest …"
Turner also has a large number of sports properties. Steinberg writes: "Ad sales for Turner’s sports media and the digital property Bleacher Report will remain separate, with two executives responsible for digital ads associated with sports content now reporting to Jon Diament, exec veep of Turner Sports ad sales."
In his story Steinberg quotes Turner Broadcasting System President David Levy from an internal memo about the reorg: "Obviously, the changes we are announcing today come at an important time in our business.Through discussions with our clients, we know they’re looking to accelerate the process of integrating their media plans and have a single point of focus that will further streamline the buying process across all screens and opportunities.”
Though major changes such as D’Alba’s departure are not usually made this close to the critical spring upfront buying season, Steinberg notes: "In December, Viacom said a single ad-sales team would deal with advertisers for all TV programming and digital assets associated with CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Logo, Spike TV, TV Land and VH1. NBCUniversal in October reorganized its ad-sales staff around consumer behaviors, such as watching mass-audience entertainment, live programming like sports or news, or specific kinds of lifestyle content. "
Below: Pictures of Donna Speciale and Greg D’Alba