MTVN revamps ad, affiliate sales

Combines ops for linear and new-media platforms

Viacom unveiled Wednesday a remixed MTV Networks, shaking up its advertising and affiliate sales divisions.

There were no additional job cuts, but there was one casualty: MTVN is abandoning its annual upfront presentation, one of the most lavish in the TV industry.

MTVN is adopting a platform-agnostic approach for ad and affiliate sales, combining operations for linear channels with new-media platforms. Digital ad sales will be integrated along with two new units under the direction of Hank Close, president of domestic ad sales. Distribution efforts on all fronts will report to newly crowned affiliate sales chief Denise Dahldorf, whose department will be rechristened content distribution and marketing.

The changes come as MTVN juggles more brands and platforms than ever with fewer employees; Viacom laid off 250 staffers in February. The company also reshuffled its global digital-media management team, headed by Mika Salmi, in January.

Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO of MTVN, hinted that changes were coming when the layoffs were announced, saying that the division had to adjust itself for digital-media opportunities.

"This new strategy reflects a holistic approach to the market, with sales, research and marketing aligned to develop solutions that put our clients in touch with our audiences in a deep and meaningful way," McGrath said.

To give marketers a better understanding of MTVN's myriad brands on multiple platforms, they will be clustered into three different groups, each with a different demographic skew.

Ad sales efforts for MTVN's youth-targeted Kids and Family brands are one such group, though teen-focused Nickelodeon spinoff the N will be structured with a second young-adult cluster, including MTV, Logo and VH1. The third, oldest-skewing group will be comprised of Comedy Central, Spike TV, CMT and TV Land.

Two new units have been created to deepen MTVN-marketer ties, dubbed Brand Solutions and Generator. In addition, MTVN will support its ad sales efforts with a yearlong series of presentations each exploring different facets of its programming portfolio.

The "roadshows" effectively will replace the MTVN upfront, a star-studded affair that has been held for the past four years in May at Madison Square Garden's the Theater in Manhattan. Previous events have punctuated PowerPoint presentations about ratings and reach with performances from Elton John and Kanye West.

On the affiliate sales front, the newly named unit will encompass everything from traditional channels to Internet portals and wireless. Dahldorf, who was promoted in February to replace longtime division president Nicole Browning, also will be responsible for BET Networks, which previously had its own affiliate-sales management. The changes also will remove the department's regional orientation.