CBS exec keeps the ad dollars flowing

When millions of television viewers tune in to watch the hit CBS reality series “Survivor,” the network is “outwitting,” “outlasting,” and “outplaying” its competitors all the way to the bank with advertising revenues, CBS executive George Schweitzer told audience members Friday.

Schweitzer, the executive vice president of marketing and communications for CBS, is one of the people in charge of making sure the advertising money keeps coming in. Schweitzer spoke to a group of about 50 people at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea Friday about his experiences as a network executive in a time when the proliferation of cable channels, the Internet, and TiVo threaten to decrease the number of people who watch network television.

“There are not just three stations anymore,” Schweitzer said. “The media explosion is absolutely fantastic, except for people like me trying to compete for your leisure time.”

With so many viewer options, Schweitzer said, advertisers are concentrating on new strategies to boost advertising revenues by getting more people to watch CBS shows.

“We leave no stone unturned in trying to interest someone in our product,” Schweitzer said. He said networks are increasingly turning to product placement within shows to further increase revenues.

Schweitzer went on to discuss the importance of the age breakdown of people who watch a particular show. Though “Murder, She Wrote,” a 1990s drama, had far more viewers than “The Simpsons,” the cartoon brought in more advertising revenue because it was more popular among younger people. He said he doubted the wisdom of such an advertising policy.

“Most of the 18-year-olds who can own a BMW have to steal it,” Schweitzer said. “As the baby boomers age, advertisers are waking up to the need for an older ideal demographic.”

Schweitzer, who started his television career in the CBS mailroom, said even with a bad economy there is still opportunity for people to get started in television.

“If people are smart and can write I’ll hire them,” Schweitzer said. “You don’t have to go to business school.”

Julia Kripke ’04 said she was skeptical of, but heartened by, Schweitzer’s idealism.

“I think what he said is a little easier said than done.” Kripke said. “But it was a good optimistic attitude and I want to adopt it.”

The tea was part of the Yale Undergraduates’ Distinguished Speakers Series, or YUDSS, and was co-sponsored by the Yale Film Society. Katherine Capelluto ’04, co-president of YUDSS, said she was pleased with the amount of student interest in the tea.

“We had a lot of competition with Davenport Day, Pierson Day, JE Day, Saybrook Day plus the fashion show so I was a little bit nervous,” Capelluto said. “But I think that he was such a draw and everybody wanted to hear what he had to say, so I am very pleased with the turnout.”

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