Suzanne Sullivan, the executive VP responsible for selling ads in Fox’s entertainment programming, calls the network where she’s worked for 15 years her second family.
Her (and her husband’s) four kids moved out on their own, and she wound up moving to a smaller Connecticut home during a pandemic. “The first time we actually stepped foot inside the house was about two weeks before we moved in,” she said. “It was intense but we’re settled in now.”
Unlike in many families, none of the kids tried to return to the roost. One son lives in New Jersey. “We’ve informed him very clearly that it would be impossible for all three of us to work from home from here,” she said.
Sullivan wanted to grow up to be Katie Couric, but after college she got no responses to the form letter she sent to every TV station between Massachusetts and Virginia. She answered an ad in The New York Times and got a job as a sales assistant at CBS. She later crossed Sixth Avenue to work at ad agency BBDO and thought she would never leave. But then she followed a colleague, Toby Byrne — who later became president of sales at the network — to Fox.
Now, fun for Sullivan is sitting on the beach with a book, “maybe a piña colada, if it’s after 5 o’clock.”
Sullivan spoke with Multichannel News contributing editor Jon Lafayette. An edited transcript follows.
How are you handling working from home? Certainly all the technology that we have makes it a heck of a lot easier. We all miss the collaboration and having somebody right there that you can bounce an idea off. I would say we’ve managed really well, but it’s not the same as being in an office, for sure.
How easy has it been to reach clients with everyone working from home in a pandemic? Everyone’s been super accessible. We’ve been able to do some really interesting virtual meetings where we’ve been able to access [Fox Entertainment CEO] Charlie Colller. We’ve also got a whole calendar of events we’re doing with clients. As an example, with the MasterChef Junior talent, we had an event for people with young children. We sent them all cookie-decorating kits and we’ve got some of our staff members hosting it with their kids. One of the nice parts is every once in a while little kids pop up on Zoom calls and it just humanized everybody.
The pandemic canceled and changed many advertisers plans. How did you deal with that? When the waves
of relief requests began, I was so proud of Fox because our response to what our partners needed was immediate. It was really hard, but we were able to say, “We can help you.” We were literally able to help every single advertiser with whatever they needed and then it felt so good to be able to do that. I do believe in karma because once all of that got settled, we ended up with a robust scatter market.
What in the world is going on with this upfront? Are buyers still expecting price rollbacks? Conversations are ongoing. Advertisers recognize they need the scale and reach of broadcast to create the demand needed to move their business forward. At Fox, we’re in an enviable position. We were the top-rated network for the 2019-2020 broadcast season, and we are ready for the fall. Based on all the indicators leading into the upfront, it’s trending towards a positive marketplace for broadcast prime.
Everyone seems to be talking about flexibility. What does that mean to you? We understand with what everybody’s just been through, that they need as much flexibility as they can possibly get and we’re working through those terms with everybody. It’s certainly not one size fits all. I think ideally what advertisers want is the certainty of price that the upfront affords and the maximum flexibility that scatter affords. There’s a reason why those are two different marketplaces. Some requests are more realistic and reasonable than others and so we’re working through this. The way I look at it is that if it helps advertisers feel more comfortable doing business with us, then we’re going to work with them. Just like we’ve proven that we already are willing to do.
What show is on your DVR? Better Things.
All-time favorite show? Alias with Jennifer Garner. She was kind of a badass. I want to be her a little bit.
Favorite podcast? My go-to podcasts are true crime, so Cold and Root of Evil.
What apps are you using? Simple Habit and Calm. There’s one leader, Sean M. Kelly. He has the most wonderful irish accent. I like to start my day or end my day listening to that.
What books are you reading? Radical Candor by Kim Scott and Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane.