In the most significant manifestation of its desire to offer one-stop advertising, Walt Disney Co. is consolidating ESPN and Disney/ABC properties under Rita Ferro while announcing that longtime ESPN sales chief Ed Erhardt will retire in early 2019.

In addition to ESPN and Disney/ABC, Ferro’s domain as President of Disney Advertising Sales will include Disney’s mobile, social and digital portfolio and national ad sales for ABC’s eight owned local TV stations. Disney did not indicate if Ferro would also supervise ad sales for the properties belonging to 21st Century Fox that the company is expected to purchase in 2019, as Variety reports.

Having overseen multimedia sales for ESPN since 1999, Erhardt was appointed president of Global Sales & Marketing in May 2015. In a statement issued today, he said, “I have been blessed to sell and market the power of sports and the ESPN brand with best team in the business over the past 20 years. I want to thank George Bodenheimer for giving me this opportunity in 1999 and thank our customers for their partnership, confidence, investments and friendship.”

In the same statement, Ferro said, “I’m humbled to step into this new expanded role, and look forward to building upon the progress the teams under Ed and I have made since becoming a part of Disney’s Direct-to Consumer & International segment earlier this year.

“More than ever before, it is critical that we continue to evolve, rethink and anticipate how we work together across all of our platforms to best meet the changing needs of our clients and consumers.”

In his most recent video interview with Beet.TV in May 2018, Erhardt explained how ESPN’s audience becoming 30% female and its dominance in live programming has helped to expand its advertiser mix. We are re-publishing that interview in light of today’s announcement.

Always known for its male reach, ESPN’s audience is now 30% female. This diversity, combined with programming that’s nearly 100% live, is helping the sports juggernaut broaden its advertiser mix while making it a big player in real-time marketing.

Meanwhile, its audience targeting capabilities can be based on outcomes of sporting events and their impact on consumers’ moods, Erhardt says in this interview with Beet.TV at the Digital Content NewFronts 2018.

Data and technology are providing the digital media ecosystem with the means to “know much sooner whether something is working or not. So with that in mind, we think we have a competitive advantage in real time marketing because of the fact that we’re live all the time,” Erhardt says.

With attribution data generating post-campaign insights on everything from store sales to Realtor bookings to in-store grocery sales, the whole process has become “much more sophisticated. In our minds, the more we can help feed that with intelligent information, particularly around what our brands bring to that conversation, the better.”

A growing female contingent now watches and consumes sports. And they do that for all kinds of reasons. “Differently than men in some respects, the same as men in others,” says Erhardt.

From an advertising perspective, ESPN positions its audience as more adults than just its traditional male base. This focus on diversity has helped to lure brands like Mattel and Northwestern, which bought time on ESPN “because we reached a female audience that they were having a hard time reaching. Because it happened to be more professional, more upscale, etcetera. That’s a big change I think.”

ESPN boasts that it harbors the “largest treasure trove of information about sports fans.” So if a female viewer has voluntarily indicated that she’s in a certain region and is a fan “of four other teams,” based on sports outcomes ESPN knows “whether you’re going to be happy on a Saturday or not. Well, there’s a different ad for each one of those things and they become more effective when we can do it in the right way. We call it live connect.”

Diversity aside, the company’s stalwart product categories aren’t going away. “We’ll always have beers and we’ll always have autos and things like that. But I think we’re tapping into the new economy,” Erhardt says.

This video is part of Beet.TV’s coverage of the Digital Content NewFronts 2018. The series a co-presentation of Beet.TV and the IAB. Please see additional videos from the series on this page.

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