It’s the end of an era in TV advertising as Discovery Communications’ Joe Abruzzese — one of the industry’s best known, and admired, execs — announced that he will retire at year end. He spent the last 14 years of his 46-year career at the cable company after 11 years leading CBS’ ad sales, and 10 years at NBC.
Discovery will promote Ben Price, a 27-year veteran, to president of U.S. ad sales when Abruzzese leaves. He’ll report to Chief Commercial Officer Paul Guyardo.
“Joe has defined what it means to lead with integrity, has made clients into friends, built the best ad sales organization in the business – including our new leader Ben Price – and created fantastic value for Discovery and our shareholders,” Discovery CEO David Zaslav says.
He calls Abruzzese “a great person, an incredible friend” and the industry’s “gold standard.”
Abruzzese says he’s “lucky” to have worked for “the best media companies in the world. I’ve loved this industry from the moment I set foot in 30 Rock many years ago and still love it today.”
At Discovery he helped to craft cross-network deals as it launched networks including OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The company says that Beta Research gave Discovery’s ad organization its top ranking in sales representative competence for five consecutive years, and its upfront presentations led the industry for nine of the past 10 years.
At CBS, Abruzzese oversaw all ad sales as well as the UPN networks. He notably secured corporate sponsorships for the reality series Survivor.
In 2011 he was named to Broadcasting & Cable’s Hall of Fame. He’s on the boards of the National Kidney Foundation of Greater New York and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Price calls Abruzzese “an incredible leader, friend and mentor.”
He takes over at a challenging time for Discovery. Some analysts have lowered their ad forecasts for the company amid softer-than-expected ratings at services including the flagship Discovery Channel. The company’s shares have lost about 19.7% of their value over the last 12 months.