Fox just put the guy who wants to blow up TV advertising in charge of sales

Joe Marchese sa100 2015

Joe Marchese, president of advanced advertising products at Fox Networks Group, has warned that TV networks “bombard” people with too many ads.In fact, he’s advocated for giving people the choice to watch fewer adsduring network TV shows. He’s even advocated for consumers to use ad blockers.

Yet on Wednesday, Marchese was named president of advertising revenue for Fox Networks Group, which includes the Fox broadcast network, FX and Fox Sports 1 (though not Fox News, which is run separately).

The executive, who joined the company after Fox parent 21st Century Fox acquired his ad tech startup TrueX in late 2014, now has to figure out how to keep revenue in linear television amidst ratings declines, cord cutting and the explosion in often ad-free video streaming.

Essentially, Fox is putting the person who’s been urging the broadcast TV industry to drastically rethink its business model – or risk alienating a new breed on binge-viewing consumer – in charge of all of its ad sales operations.

“I’m the guy who has said, media organizations used to be just about about maximizing revenue,” he told Business Insider on Wednesday. “TV used to just compete against other TV companies. Now it’s about fixing viewing experience. If you are just trying to maximize revenue [by shoving more and more ads into TV shows], people will say, ‘forget it I’ll watch Netflix.'”

The fact that Fox is putting the mavericky Marchese in such a role likely signifies that the TV giant recognizes the stakes it is facing, as TV consumption patterns – and people’s tolerance for ads that interrupt their viewing – goes through continued upheaval.

“We’re in the audience business, not the ad business,'” he added.

That said, the ad business has been pretty good to traditional TV companies; eMarketer predicts markets will spend over $72 billion on TV ads in the US this year.

Marchese was quick to point out that people still watch over four hours a night of TV on average, and that despite the explosion in web video consumption, he was willing to bet that no single piece of web content attracts an audience that would approach “any old Tuesday” on TV.

“The industry as a whole has to have a perspective on what are we going to look like in three years,” he said. “I’ve been vocal about change. But we need to have a nice balance. Let’s not go saying ‘everything is different now.’ Let’s have a real conversation. Things are changing. But not all at once.”

Still, Marchese is pushing for new ad formats and fewer ads – particularly on video-on-demand platforms – where Fox shows like “Empire” see huge spikes in viewership after they air live on TV.

He’s also bullish on experimenting with more targeted, “dynamic” ads as more people watch live TV over the web via skinny bundle services like Sling TV and the recently announced Hulu 50-channel streaming package. The bet is that Fox and other networks may be able to charge more for ads that are delivered to specific audiences – like new parents -or at least that advertisers will start seeing better results from running such targeted ads.

It’s still very early in TV’s race to cater to cord-cutters. For now, Fox needs to get out in front of revamping TV advertising while still protecting its golden goose.

“We need to have less interruption in advertising,” he said. “Consumers have said that. Our job to get there.”

Fox has been without a top sales executive since September . The company is holding its more annual ‘upfront’ presentation to advertisers in New York next Monday.