Walt Disney Co., after years of having ABC (US), its kids and entertainment-oriented cable networks and ESPN (US) as separate units, is uniting its advertising sales efforts.
Rita Ferro, who had been serving as president, Disney/ABC advertising sales and marketing since 2017, will lead the effort. Now as president of Disney advertising sales, Ferro will also head ad sales for ESPN Inc.'s myriad properties as Ed Erhardt, who has led the sports programmer’s sales for 20 years, is retiring and will step down from his role early next year.
The move follows a shift in the management of global advertising sales for Disney’s media properties earlier this year from Disney’s Media Networks to the new direct-to-consumer and international segment under Chairman Kevin Mayer as a means to afford clients one-stop-shopping access to reach audiences across the company’s holdings.
It also aligns Disney with other media companies that are able to offer inventory and sponsorship opportunities across an array of properties with responsibility for the broader portfolio falling under an ad sales leader, as is the case at NBCUniversal Media LLC and AT&T Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
In addition to Ferro driving advertising sales for ABC Entertainment, ABC Daytime, ABC News, Disney Channel (US), Disney XD (US), Disney Junior (US), Freeform (US) and Radio Disney, she now has oversight of the domestic sports cable networks: ESPN on ABC, ESPN.com, ESPN3, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Radio, ESPN International, the recently launched direct-to-consumer service ESPN+ and ESPN Mobile.
Ferro started her Disney career 21 years ago at ESPN International.
Ferro will also continue to lead the integrated sales team for the company’s online, mobile and social offerings, including the Disney Digital Network and is responsible for national TV ad sales on ABC's eight owned local TV stations.
At ESPN, Erhardt created in 2007 the first upfront for a cable network during the traditional broadcast pitch week. He was also a key architect of the sales and marketing strategies for the College Football Playoff, which has generated seven of the 10 largest audiences — including the top four — in cable history and helped establish CreativeWorks, one of the first in-house branded-content creative agencies.