Hot List 2005: Charlie Collier

Jul 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Charlie Collier has been running ad sales departments since he was in his 20s. Now as executive VP of ad sales at Court TV, he may be leading the entire industry on the road to advertising accountability.

During the recent upfront, Court TV struck a deal with media buyer Starcom that guarantees not only that the agency’s client’s commercials will get ratings, but also that viewers will notice them and act on them.

The deal is a reflection of Mr. Collier’s approach to ad sales as a long-term business proposition, and a reflection that clients are willing to work with him on deals that go beyond dickering over spots and CPMs.

That’s not to say Mr. Collier hasn’t been growing Court TV’s ad revenues. They’ve climbed five-fold to nearly $200 million, according to industry sources, during his five years at Court TV.

“Business has never been better. It actually has jumped up by leaps and bounds,” said Court TV CEO Henry Schleiff .

Mr. Schleiff said Court TV hired Mr. Collier because, in a word-of-mouth business, he had a good reputation and came highly recommended by past employers at A&E Networks and Oxygen Media.

“What I’ve come to appreciate, especially for someone … at the age of 35 or under, is his wisdom,” he said. “He really does look with great wisdom not [at] how we [can] make more money, but how can the advertiser be more effective. And in that regard, how we can be of service.”

After college, Mr. Collier was accepted to law school and even put down a deposit toward tuition. Ultimately, though, he decided, rather than go to law school, to join Telerep in New York as a sales assistant. He soon got into the sales training program and was selling when he was 21. But he realized he had little ability to control the spots he sold on TV stations around the country. “I wanted to get somewhere I could actually keep the promises I made,” he said.

He made the move to national sales by joining A&E, where he helped develop the strategy for selling the recently launched History Channel. “He’s a very strategic guy,” said Arlene Manos, who hired him at A&E. “At that time he had an unusual maturity. You could just see it. He had goals and he was focused and he had a wonderful sense of humor and he was perceptive.”

A&E sponsored Mr. Collier as he got his business degree from Columbia University. In her recommendation letter, Ms. Manos, now president of national ad sales for Rainbow Media, said: “The media business ultimately wouldn’t contain him, but for the time anybody had him, they’d be lucky to have him.”

During the dot-com boom, Mr. Collier moved to Oxygen Media, which initially included a large Internet component in its business plan. There, he rose to head of ad sales. Then he moved to Court TV, where he changed the network’s philosophy by selling its daytime court coverage separately from its prime-time lineup. “That made people take another look at Court TV because they knew Court as trials and it got us to focus on the entertainment side of Court TV, where prime time is, where the money was.”

The prime-time investigative programming has an attentive audience-and that’s a quality Mr. Collier knew he could sell to advertisers. In fact, he was willing to guarantee it. “We want to make sure that we put our money where our mouth is,” he said.

A new type of guarantee involves risks, but Mr. Collier said managers at Court TV have been supportive.

“I consider him to be a key member of our senior management team,” Mr. Schleiff said. “He is in our programming meetings. He has a huge voice in what we put on and we don’t put on.”

And his responsibilities are likely to grow. “Charlie’s future is absolutely boundless. He is an unbelievable executive. It’s up to people like me to put new challenges in front of Charlie,” he said.

Ms. Manos said she’s not surprised by the success Mr. Collier has enjoyed. “He’ll have more,” she said. “He’s a great family guy, with an excellent sense of values. All those things you’d want in someone working around you.”

Scouting Report

Title: Executive VP, ad sales, Court TV

Date of birth: Aug. 23, 1969

Place of birth: Buffalo, N.Y.

Big break: When A&E sponsored his MBA at Columbia University, where he broadened his business knowledge, which enabled him to ask clients better questions about their nonmedia issues and concerns.

Who knew? Because he has an Ivy League graduate degree, few would guess that Mr. Collier never graduated from high school. That happened because he moved to England with his parents when he was 15 after his sophomore year and testing there put him a year behind his American classmates. He applied for colleges on his American schedule and was accepted at Bucknell, which he attended. “I still had a year of school to go, but I just came. No one ever asked,” he said.