Broadcasting

Understanding the importance of revenue at the networks and why sales executives are well paid

John Bogusz headed up CBS Sports Sales for a couple decades. He announced last week that he’s retiring after working under the aegis of Jo Ann Ross, the first woman to run sales for at a national network.

Sales executives at the national TV networks, like ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN are well compensated. Ad spots in glittering sports programing like the Super Bowl, AFC Conference Championship game, the Masters and other Golf tournaments are almost unimaginable.  Think billions not millions.

It’s why salespeople are generally hard drivers. Yes, it’s a demanding business! There’s constant inexorable pressures on sellers. When management calls asking for you to deliver the impossible, a ton of dough in one overnight, you dive in front of the mirror.

Sports on TV began with MLB and the World Series in the 1950s. Mel Allen had among the strongest, warmest and most overpowering voice. Mel’s husky tone was immediately recognized. Not only did he do the Yankees and NBC post season, he also put a warm face behind every commercial spot.

The sales people in the trenches, (women at that point engaged much) were battling then with the ad agencies of Madison Avenue. Not much of that exists anymore. Each season there are perennial increases in budgets and more pressures on sellers.

Observing shifts in the advertising community, you stop and think. First, the length basis of commercial TV spots, dropped from :60s to :30s. It started in the early 1970s. It also created more sales opportunities. But cigarette companies were being routed off TV screens. It led to doubling of commercial inventory and increased advertisers’ spending. National advertisers bombarded our eyeballs.

What John Bogusz did through his 45 years in the business, required a lot of management skills. The billions upon billions generated, seller-by-seller. I can remember John telling me after he closed a Coca-Cola Super Bowl sponsorship late in the sales process.

When I ran Westwood One Sports we’d often partner with CBS Television on the Super Bowl and the the Final Four. Chris Simko still runs CBS College Sports Sales, and does so with gusto. Chris went after it like a tiger and did so passionately.

Jo Ann Ross has overseen all CBS Advertising Sales for a long time. She rose through the ranks. For John and others, it was about being under her trust and bailiwick. The departure of Bogusz breaks up a redolent trio. They worked hard and played hard. Good people!

Mark Lazarus, CEO at NBC was the first network sales-head to reach the top suite. When he left Turner for NBC he moved quickly. He’s now a CEO. 

At CBS, the camaraderie and conviviality between Ross, Bogusz and Simko were locked solid. She gave them space and they gave her respect!

Meanwhile, CBS Sports’ CEO Sean McManus is retiring after the Final Four. We’ve sang his praises many times before and deservedly so. He’s 69, frank and fair. I’m sure he will keep himself intertwined in sports.

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Greg Gumbel won’t do pre, halftime or post-game of the NCAA Tournament programming this month. This was puzzling after CBS had advertised that Gumbel would stick with basketball in the studios. He apparently is grappling with health issues. Things are vague. We wish him his health back quickly.

He’s done a plethora of NFL play-by-play through the years as well as commentary in the studio. He’ll be 78 on May 23d. His brother was NBC’s Bryant Gumbel, a couple years younger.

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Jim Nantz, will be missed. He turns 65 on May 17th. After 32 years behind the mic, he will only do CBS’ football, the Masters and lots of golf. Most importantly, Jim will use more time with his youngish family.

Ian Eagle, Bill Raftery, and Grant Hill  are branding a new broadcast trio. Collectively, they were a fun hero last Saturday and Sunday. Succeeding Nantz, Eagle, Hill and Raftery were smooth and humorous. Years ago, Ian and Raf teamed on Nets telecasts.

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David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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