The newly relaunched Odyssey Channel hired a pair of
high-profile ad-sales executives last week to sell that spring revamp to advertisers --
John Barbera and Dan Lawlor.
The former Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. executives will
be charged with selling Odyssey's new lineup of "family programming" to
Madison Avenue at a time when the airwaves are filling up with such networks.
For both executives, joining Odyssey represents a return to
the cable-network wars. Both had been at TBSI until 1994.
Former TBSI president Barbera has joined Odyssey as New
York-based executive vice president of ad sales, and he will be pitching prospects on an
early April start for the revamp to general entertainment from its faith-and-values format
under its new ownership structure, he said.
Barbera has, in turn, hired Lawlor as vice president of
Midwest sales and Nancy Cohen as vice president of New York sales. Lawlor -- general
manager of the National Cable Communications-managed Chicago Cable Interconnect for nearly
three years, and vice president of international for TBSI from 1991 through 1994 -- said
last week that he will come aboard Feb. 1
Cohen, formerly a sales executive at Outdoor Life Network
and Speedvision, succeeds Dick Hammer, who is now vice president of direct marketing.
Odyssey will also have a Los Angeles office and, perhaps in
a couple of years, branches in Atlanta and Denver, as well, Barbera said.
As head of his own media consultancy, J.B. Communications,
Barbera began putting together Odyssey's business plan in July. As overseer of
"all aspects of advertising revenue," his purview will encompass not only the
network, but the Internet and, eventually, perhaps syndication and magazine opportunities.
Odyssey -- offering 10 network commercial minutes per hour
and two local minutes for affiliates -- counts the automotive, financial and
telecommunications fields among its current supporters. Now, Barbera said, Odyssey will
also target fast foods, packaged goods and movies.
In addition, the network hopes to benefit from the growing
advertiser interest in family fare, as signaled by the recently formed Forum for
Responsible Advertisers, Barbera said. That group's supporters include Johnson &
Johnson, Coca-Cola Co., Procter & Gamble Co. and Sears, Roebuck & Co.
A 16-year Turner veteran, Barbera was part of the original
team assembled by Ted Turner in 1978 to launch the first commercial satellite network,
which eventually became superstation WTBS, Atlanta. As TBSI president, Barbera oversaw
five domestic and four international cable networks.
Odyssey will draw from the libraries of its new programming
partners, Hallmark Entertainment and the Jim Henson Co.
Odyssey -- which is also partly owned by Liberty Media
Group and the National Interfaith Cable Coalition -- now claims to be in 30 million cable