By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
As chairman of the SNTA for the past two years, Howard Levy has been one of syndication’s biggest boosters. “You get really involved in the programs you sell for,” he said, citing one reason he’s so passionate when pitching his product. “I go down to the set of ‘Live With Regis and Kelly’ at least once a month. I’m there and feel part of it.”
Mr. Levy’s tenure in syndication dates back well beyond his 15 years with Buena Vista Television, where he now serves as executive VP of ad sales. He credits his first boss, TeleRep founder Al Masini, with molding his own sales philosophy.
“Al Masini was someone who changed television,” Mr. Levy said. “He was behind the creation of ‘Star Search’ and ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ and [he created] a new way of looking at first-run.”
Janice Marinelli, president of Buena Vista Television, who also worked with Mr. Masini at Tele-Rep, lauded Mr. Levy for his “ability to build relationships and expertise in communicating the value of syndicated programming.”
“Howard has done much to advance this division’s bottom line and the multibillion-dollar syndicated advertising marketplace,” Ms. Marinelli said.
Mr. Levy pointed to audience reaction to a Pontiac promotion running on “Live With Regis and Kelly” as evidence of syndication’s reach. “More than 2 million people have responded by postcard or gone on the [Internet] to enter,” he said. “Count those people and it is the equivalent to a 2.0 rating-and that’s just people who have responded. Again, compare that to cable and its average of a .4 rating per show.”
A graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Mr. Levy oversees advertising sales and promotions for shows ranging from “Regis and Kelly” to the weekday version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” to “The Tony Danza Show,” which was just picked up for its second season with 80 percent market reach and better time periods in key cities such as Los Angeles.
For next season, he is focused on off-network sales of “My Wife and Kids” and “Alias.” The latter will first go to a window on cable’s TNT. Mr. Levy said he has no problems with such off-network cable windows.
“Syndication still comes through when you have a popular show. ‘CSI’ went to cable and then syndication, and it’s getting a 6.0 rating in syndication,” he said. “That’s our strength. We have good programs and we have the wide audience.”
Just the Facts
Title: Executive VP, ad sales, Buena Vista Television, and chairman, SNTA
How long in current position: Since 2000
Year of birth: 1956
Place of birth: Pittsburgh
Who knew? Mr. Levy recently leg-pressed 1,000 pounds to win a $100 bet.