Networks get more serious about Web

Mar 26, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The CBS sales force is redirecting its efforts to route advertiser traffic to the network’s Web site, CBS.com.

CBS Television Sales President Joe Abruzzese has brought advertising sales on CBS.com into his department. Selling for the Web site had previously been handled primarily by the network’s Internet team. Chris Simon, senior vice president of prime-time sales, will now supervise the site’s sales, and he recently took the additional title of executive vice president, new media sales. Dave Ghiraldini, who spent the last three years as a sales executive for Excite.com, has come back to the prime-time sales team at CBS as vice president, new media sales, reporting to Mr. Simon.

“The last couple of years in the dot-com world have been very difficult for many people, and I think our slowness to the arena may benefit us in the long run,” Mr. Simon said.

In the short run, CBS will try to emulate the model used for “Survivor II: The Australian Outback” sales. The network had phenomenal success parlaying sponsorships of “Survivor II” into advertiser presence on CBS’s Web site.

Seven of the nine “Survivor” advertising partners also bought into the “Survivor” Web site, which quintupled traffic on CBS.com in the hit show’s first week alone.

So when this year’s upfront selling gets under way, CBS will be pitching advertisers on adding Web buys to their on-air purchases in all the network’s dayparts and programs.

One thing advertisers will get for their money is an extra on-air mention. “You will hear somebody say, `For more information on stories on “48 Hours,” go to CBS.com, sponsored by …”’ Mr. Simon said. He described the on-air plug as “An additional call to action.”

The CBS ad executive freely concedes, “I’m learning this at break-neck speed right now … This is going to be a very fast learning process for all of us here.”

But he knows that banner ads are old-hat, and skyscraper ads down the side or wallpaper in the background of the page are examples of what will be the norm.

He said clients “want to see more things. … What else can you do for us? How else can you get our message out there?”

“People seem to want to have the Internet-or at least talk about the Internet as part of their future buys.”

Cross-platform, cross-company sales pitches are not new at the networks, but the selling of Web site ads has been largely the responsibility of teams within those companies’ Internet divisions.

CBS is not the only network assuming more, if not most, of that responsibility.

NBC also has charged its network salespeople with selling the Internet, and it will begin that training process next week.

Fox views Fox.com as a largely promotional platform and does not sell advertising on it.

ABC’s sales forces do talk to potential network advertisers about spots on the network’s Web site, but primary responsibility for selling the ABC-branded sites rests with the Walt Disney Internet Group.

There, Scott Schiller, senior vice president of the strategic partnership marketing group, focused most recently on getting advertisers who bought time in Sunday’s Oscar broadcast to buy a presence on the Oscar.com Web site.

In addition to advertising within the Oscarcast, Pepsi, for example, was the presenting sponsor of a “Predict the Winners” game on Oscar.com. AT&T was an on-air sponsor and an online sponsor of the “Oscar Sweeps” daily trivia game.

Mr. Simon at CBS has the same sort of designs on upcoming big events on CBS, whose annual broadcast slate includes the Grammy Awards and next September will add the prime-time Emmys.

“If someone has a big presence in the Grammys, well, they should have a presence as well on our Web site as a continuation,” he said.

Mr. Simon said the goal is to create a model that can turn the Web site into a viable business.

“It is going to be part of our upfront,” Mr. Simon said. “But again, when the day is done, you’re talking many billions of dollars on the broadcast side, and this is certainly not close to that.

“We’re on our way to reaching a very modest target that we set for ourselves a couple of months ago.”