After an 8-Month Search, Fox Networks Group Taps Joe Marchese as Ad Sales Chief

He replaces Toby Byrne, who stepped down last September

Joe Marchese was one of three Fox execs sharing ad sales chief duties since Toby Byrne departed in September. Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Fox Network Group’s search for Toby Byrne’s replacement, which took nearly eight months, has finally ended—less than a week before Monday’s upfront event.

After casting a wide net, the company selected the candidate many buyers assumed would get the job from the start: Joe Marchese, its president of advanced advertising products.

As president of advertising revenue, Marchese will oversee almost all of Fox’s portfolio, including Fox, Fox Sports, FX, FXX and National Geographic Channel—but not Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network, which has a separate ad sales chief. (That position was filled earlier this week, with Horizon Media’s Marianne Gambelli replacing Paul Rittenberg, who departed last month after two decades.) Marchese fills the slot that’s been vacant since Byrne abruptly stepped down last September, just a week before the 2016-17 season began.

“Joe is an industry leader who has accelerated the transformation of our sales organization into a modern creative group with exceptional capabilities in the areas of data, digital revenue, user experience and branded content creation,” said Fox Networks Group president and COO Randy Freer in a statement. “[I] look forward to working with Joe to build on the industry-first user experiences and innovative storytelling opportunities we are developing for our brand partners.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to take on this new role at Fox Networks Group, which is home to the greatest entertainment and sports programming in the world,” said Marchese in a statement. “It’s crucial, as an industry, that we evolve the business model of advertising to better serve our brand and agency partners, our creative community and, most of all, our viewers and fans. It is rare that we have an opportunity, through working together, to benefit all players in an ecosystem, but that is exactly what we have in front of us with the digitization of delivery of TV quality content.”

The decision took significantly longer than Freer had anticipated. In February, he told Adweek that the company expected to announced Bryne’s replacement in late February or early March.

Buyers had previously told Adweek that as long as Fox’s decision was made prior to the start of upfronts, they were OK with the company taking its time.

Since Byrne departed in September, the ad sales division was run by evp of ad sales Bruce Lefkowitz, evp of global partnerships Danielle Maged and Marchese, all of whom reported to Freer. Under the new organization, Maged will continue to report to Freer, and oversee global solutions and National Geographic partnerships, and Lefkowitz will continue in his same role, reporting to Marchese.

That team brought in more than a half-billion dollars in revenue for Super Bowl LI in February, selling 30-second spots for close to $5 million each, and getting an estimated $20 million in additional revenue thanks to the first overtime in Super Bowl history.

“It’s a testament to Toby that everything has been running so smoothly,” Carrie Drinkwater, svp, group director of investment activation, Mediahub, told Adweek in February. “He ran such a tight operation, in that everybody was in place. I give him huge kudos for setting them up for success going forward, with a space open for so long.”

It was that day-to-day cohesion, Freer told Adweek in February, that gave the company the breathing room to take the time it needed to search for a suitable replacement. “This isn’t a 12-month or a 24-month decision. This is really a three- or five-year look at where the business is going,” he said.

The company hired a search firm, MediaLink, and looked at a variety of candidates from the agency, media and digital worlds, as well as internal contenders. The ideal candidate, Freer told Adweek, “is going to have a stronger voice externally around what brands want, and what Fox Networks Group can bring to the marketplace as it relates to audience and brand advertising, as well as for someone who thinks much more about outcomes and the solutions for brands than about ratings points.”

That person, the company hopes, will work with brands to improve the viewing experience, with fewer and better ads, and leave the day-to-day operations to its current team.

Several buyers had expected all along that the job would go to Marchese, who was the CEO of digital ad company true[X], which Fox acquired in 2014.

“He seemed like the person from the start,” said one buyer. Added Drinkwater, “Since they’ve become part of the organization, everybody likes him and everybody’s rooting for him. He’ll bring a new outlook to this space, given his background and his success.”

Another hint that Fox was leaning toward Marchese came last month, when Marchese joined the ad sales chiefs at Turner and Viacom in announcing that the three companies had joined forces to create and launch a standard audience-targeting platform for all networks and agencies.

The Fox Networks Group position was one of six high-profile ad sales chief slots that opened up last year. The other open broadcast position, at ABC, was filled by Rita Ferro on Feb. 8, two months after Geri Wang announced she would be stepping down in March.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.