Abruzzese’s career has included 22 years at the CBS Television Networks, including 11 years as head of all sales efforts at CBS and its UPN subsidiary. Before joining CBS in 1980 he worked for NBC in sports sales and planning for 10 years.
But this is the first time Abruzzese has been responsible for sales at a cable TV network. Discovery owns not only its signature Discovery Channel but other networks including TLC, Animal Planet, The Travel Channel and Discovery Health. Abruzzese said he’s looking forward the new challenge at Discovery Networks. He said he was moving from one “great brand,” CBS, to another, Discovery. Abruzzese pointed out what he felt was the tremendous value to advertisers about cable TV, that many of them are roughly 60% of the CPM of a network show and showing tremendous growth.
“There’s no immediacy. Business is pretty good, the channels are stable,” Abruzzese said. “I think clients are looking for that,” he said. He said the goal is to provide added value for advertisers. He pointed to one of his most recent successes, the integrated sponsorship during the first “Survivor” series. General Motors, for instance, purchased ads on “Survivor” and were rewarded with the product placement of a GM car on the show.
Abruzzese sees more client-sponsored shows and cross-platform deals for the Discovery Networks. While he said it would have to be worked out in the future, he felt perhaps an automaker like the Ford Motor Co. would purchase the sponsorship, which would not only include media ads and the billboards but also product placements of Ford Motor Co. vehicles.
“I think cable is undervalued for the product that’s developed. It’s only going to continue. … Buyers and the clients are finding the value there. It’s not up to where it should be but I think it will be in the next few years,” he said.
Abruzzese said his job at CBS wasn’t selling against cable TV, saying that the network was more positioning itself against other broadcast networks than anything else. At Discovery, Abruzzese said, he feels he can compete against cable and broadcast networks.
While Abruzzese is new to the cable TV industry, he’s no stranger to Discovery Networks President Billy Campbell. Until 1998, Campbell was a top adviser to CBS President Leslie Moonves, Abruzzese’s boss at CBS. Abruzzese said he and Campbell would look at Discovery’s systems to see what can be done to improve what he said is already a great product.