CBS’ Jo Ann Ross Tapped to Lead ViacomCBS Ad Sales

She gets the job over Viacom’s Sean Moran, who will leave the company after the merger

Portrait of Jo Ann Ross
Jo Ann Ross has headed up ad sales for CBS since 2002. Sasha Maslov for Adweek
Headshot of Jason Lynch

CBS ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross, who has headed up ad sales for the network since 2002, will keep her top job at the newly formed ViacomCBS.

Instead of following the path of other long-tenured CBS executives and exiting the company ahead of its upcoming merger with Viacom, she’s been named ad sales chief for the combined ViacomCBS, following the close of that deal later this year.

Ross, who is currently president and chief advertising revenue officer for CBS, will serve as president and chief advertising revenue officer of domestic advertising sales at ViacomCBS. In that role, she’ll oversee the new company’s multiplatform media sales efforts.

Viacom president and CEO Bob Bakish, who will serve as ViacomCBS president and CEO, selected Ross over his in-house ad sales chief, Sean Moran, who will leave the company following the merger.

John Halley, currently COO of ad solutions and executive vice president of Advanced Marketing Solutions at Viacom, will serve as COO of ad revenue and keep his evp post, reporting to Ross. He’ll head up commercial and business operations for the unified advertising team, as well as ViacomCBS’ portfolio of advanced advertising and marketing solutions.

Acting CBS CEO Joe Ianniello, who will become chairman and CEO of CBS and oversee the CBS-branded assets in the combined company, lauded Ross in a staff memo today: “I don’t need to tell anyone here how important Jo Ann’s leadership has been across the company. From integrating our linear and digital teams to positioning us to capture emerging opportunities in advanced advertising, her loyal team has been one of the engines driving our growth and ensuring our stability.”

Ianniello continued, “Jo Ann’s relationships in our industry and the trust that brands and agencies put in her and her team are second to none. Having developed a talented and stable integrated sales force here at CBS, Jo Ann will now build, lead and champion the new team and monetize ViacomCBS’ unmatched offerings in the advertising marketplace.”

Moran, who took over as Viacom ad sales chief in 2016, spoke at Adweek’s Convergent TV Summit last week about the company’s two-year journey in pivoting from a linear-based broadcaster to one that embraces cord cutting and all things addressable.

“Everyone’s looking how to cut through the clutter,” Moran said. “All the clients are looking for ways to make their dollars go further, cut through with new creative and translate these into results.”

Bakish addressed Moran’s exit in his own memo to Viacom staff: “Over the course of his 24-year career at Viacom–including these last three as head of ad solutions–Sean has applied his experience, expertise and strong network of relationships to create meaningful connections between leading advertisers and our coveted young and diverse audiences.

“A few years ago, Sean recognized how our clients’ needs were changing in a period of intense disruption, and he had the foresight to quickly reposition our go-to-market strategy and evolve our business to engage marketers across more touch points than ever before. Our suite of advanced marketing solutions is now the envy of the industry, and Sean’s efforts have been integral in not only making Viacom a true pioneer in advanced advertising – but also in fueling our return to domestic ad sales growth.”

Ross, who made her 17th upfront appearance for CBS this year, will be tasked with overseeing a portfolio that includes a broadcast network (CBS), a movie studio (Paramount), a premium cable network (Showtime), several basic cable networks (including MTV, Nickelodeon, Pop TV, Paramount Network, VH1, TV Land, BET and CMT) and a number of streaming services (including CBS All Access, Pluto TV and CBSN).

ViacomCBS will have the largest share of U.S. TV audience (22%) among all media companies, and will also be on top in all major U.S. demos, including total audience, adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and kids 2-11.

This also means Ross will be in place to oversee her seventh Super Bowl in 2021, more than all other TV ad sales chiefs combined.

“The thing that I’m most proud of is that as there has been disruption in the marketplace and certainly here at CBS, my sales team on the linear and interactive sides has remained very stable and very committed. We have not been distracted by the goal that we have,” Ross told Adweek in May.

After three years of on-and-off talks, CBS and Viacom announced their merger plans in August. On Oct. 28, CBS and Viacom announced that parent company National Amusement had approved the merger, which is now expected to close by early December.

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