CBS Taps Facebook Executive for Digital Ad Push

By Joe Flint Features Dow Jones Newswires

CBS Corp. has tapped a former Facebook marketing executive for a senior post as part of a restructuring of its advertising sales unit aimed at capturing more revenue from digital platforms.

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David Lawenda, who was head of U.S. global marketing solutions at Facebook until March, will become executive vice president of digital sales and sales strategy for CBS Corp. Jo Ann Ross, longtime head of CBS ad sales has been promoted to president and chief revenue officer as part of the restructuring.

The hire of Mr. Lawenda is part of a broader push at CBS to monetize the growing portion of its audience that is consuming content on platforms other than its traditional broadcast network. As more viewing is happening away from linear television, networks fear money is being left on the table.

In the recently concluded television season, the audience for CBS's entertainment programming grew an average of 53% per series over the initial telecast when viewing from video-on-demand and digital video recorders during a 35-day window are factored in, according to Nielsen.

However, standard advertising sales don't cover that delayed viewing and on-demand online viewing isn't part of the ratings currency used in ad deals."

"Right now the main metric being used to sell advertising does not take into account millions of viewers who are watching our programming on a delayed basis, and on new platforms," said CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. "There is a huge opportunity here, and it's why realigning our sales force is so important."

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In announcing the hire, Mr. Moonves said he is counting on Mr. Lawenda to "accelerate our multi-platform sales effort" and help "position CBS for maximum growth as viewer habits continue to change."

"We saw this as an opportunity to get one strong voice in the marketplace," said Ms. Ross. "We're bringing in David to lead us forward, he will bring new ideas and strategies." Mr. Lawenda, reports to Ms. Ross.

CBS is not the only network rethinking its approach to advertising and looking for executives with digital savvy to help guide those efforts. In May, 21st Century Fox tapped Joe Marchese, a digital advertising veteran, as president of advertising revenue for its Fox Networks Group.

In recent years, Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal unit and Walt Disney Co.'s Disney/ABC TV unit have restructured their advertising units as well in an effort to both increase digital revenue and better coordinate digital and traditional sale efforts.

Prior to spending four years at Facebook, Mr. Lawenda was president of advertising sales and marketing at Spanish-language broadcaster Univision. He is not a complete unknown within the halls CBS, as he also spent many years in various sales roles at Viacom Inc. when CBS was a unit there.

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 03, 2017 11:29 ET (15:29 GMT)