Well-known and well-respected Discovery Communications advertising sales chief Joe Abruzzese said he will retire at the end of 2016, ending a 46-year career in the media business. Longtime ad sales executive Ben Price has been appointed to take his place.
Abruzzese has been Discovery’s top ad sales executive for 14 years, joining the company in 2002 after an 11-year run as head of CBS ad sales, managing the company’s entertainment, sports, daytime, news and late night divisions as well as the UPN networks and CBS internet sales. While at the broadcaster, he was instrumental in spearheading landmark industry deals including securing corporate sponsorships to launch the hit series Survivor.
Abruzzese began working at CBS in 1980 and held executive positions in sales for daytime, children’s, sports and late night before taking the helm leading network sales. Prior to CBS, he worked at NBC for 10 years in sports sales, planning and business affairs. He began his career at the J.P. Stevens Company in New York.
“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,” said Discovery CEO David Zaslav in a statement. “He is a great person, an incredible friend and on behalf of the Discovery leadership team, our board of directors and the entire Discovery family we say thank you, Joe. You are the gold standard.”
While at Discovery Abruzzese has successfully led sales for Discovery’s portfolio of U.S. networks, landing numerous cross-network deals. He also oversaw the roll out of the sales strategy for the launch of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Under his leadership, the organization ranked No. 1 in sales representative competence for five years in a row and No.1 on evaluation of Upfront presentation for nine of the past 10 years, according to the Beta Research Advertising Executive Suite.
“I am lucky to have found my way into this wonderful business more than 45 years ago, and to have worked for the best media companies in the world,” said Abruzzese in a statement. “I’ve loved this industry from the moment I set foot in 30 Rock many years ago and still love it today. I’ve established relationships with clients and agency partners who have turned into lifelong friends. I leave Discovery feeling proud of what the team has accomplished; confident in Ben’s leadership to take the organization forward; and thankful for the opportunities I’ve had here.”
Abruzzese was inducted into Broadcasting & Cable’s Hall of Fame in 2011, named a Media Maven by Advertising Age in 2000 and for his philanthropic and charitable commitments, was honored with the Chuck Fruit Award of Excellence by the National Kidney Foundation in 2010. He also sits on the board of directors for the National Kidney Foundation of Greater New York and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Upon Abruzzese’s departure, Ben Price a 27-year Discovery veteran, will assume the role of president of U.S. ad sales. Price will be based in New York and report to Chief Commercial Officer Paul Guyardo.
“With 27 years at Discovery, Ben is incredibly well-prepared for this important role,” Guyardo said in a statement. “His knowledge of our clients, company and ad sales team is stellar. I wish Joe all the best and look forward to working with Ben to drive long-term growth for our advertisers and our business.”
Price joined Discovery Communications in 1989, rising through the ranks from Account Executive to Director, Ad Sales, Western Region, to Vice President, Senior Vice President and most recently, Executive Vice President, National Ad Sales splitting his time between New York and Los Angeles, including oversight on Discovery’s regional offices and digital ad sales.
Price began his career in ad sales at Turner Broadcasting and was recently named as Cablefax’s Sales Mentor of the Year and last year received the John Marin Memorial Award by the Ad Relief of Greater Los Angeles. Price has been an active member of numerous industry organizations, including thinkLA as a board member and Hollywood Radio and Television Society.
“I am honored to take this position,” added Price in a statement. “Joe is an incredible leader, friend and mentor and I have been proud to work with him for the past 14 years. I look forward to continuing his legacy of providing the highest level of service to clients and value to the company, as well as to lead the best ad sales team in the business in creating exciting new opportunities for Discovery and our partners.”