What to expect from Nine’s new sales team

Nine’s new sales team will operate in separate divisions and be “complementary”, but senior leaders will come together should a brief require it, Nine’s sales boss Michael Stephenson has said.

Yesterday, Stephenson unveiled his new sales team which saw Matt Rowley, Fairfax Media’s former chief revenue officer for metro promoted to director of sales for publishing, while Nine’s commercial director for digital sales, Pippa Leary, was promoted to director of sales strategy and product commercialisation.

Stephenson: There is value in an aligned team

Leary and Rowley will sit alongside Richard Hunwick, director of TV sales, Warwick Sharp, director of sales operations, and Lizzie Young, Nine’s group content strategy director.

The merging of sales teams was revealed on the first day of trading for the new Nine, which now holds Fairfax Media’s assets, including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review.

Stephenson told Mumbrella the new team would operate in the same way as it has with television and digital assets previously. Now, the teams will use Powered to help brands plan across the broader set of Nine assets.

“I’ve always thought that there’s great value in having an aligned team, so that the skills that people have and the specialisms they have can be complementary, as opposed to trying to find an individual that can be all things to everybody, and that’s what we’ve proven over the last couple of years at Nine,” Stephenson told Mumbrella.

“Having an aligned television and digital team, where you have experts and specialists in certain areas, whether that be television, video or programmatic, or things like content partnerships or ideation or strategy, is the best combination to deliver value back to advertisers.

“That’s the reason why I’ve aligned the publishing team right alongside the digital team and the TV team from day one. When there’s opportunities to come together, then the senior leaders in each of those different pillars of our business will coordinate the team to respond to that particular brief. If it doesn’t make sense to come together, then everybody can operate in their own channel,” he added.

Stephenson expects there will be a level of cross-over in clients, but noted Fairfax Media’s assets are a lot more focused on the direct and small-to-medium business markets.

“All of the teams are in agencies day in, day out. The clients that operate within the major agencies and the independent agencies – there’s quite a lot of crossover. But the publishing team is far more focused on the direct and SME market than the television or digital teams. There’s a whole range of new advertisers there that will be able to benefit from the ability to access all of our assets,” he said.

“It’s around how to help advertisers whether they are large, Australian advertisers that generally use agencies, they’re mid-size advertisers through independent agencies or direct clients, and of course, over time, the SME market when we launch 9Voyager.”

Stephenson added subscription revenue would continue to be a focus for the former Fairfax Media mastheads, under Nine’s leadership.

“Hugh [Marks, Nine’s CEO] has been really clear in the press around continued investment into content and journalism because at the end of the day, we’re a content company,” Stephenson said. “There’s a very strong model and a track record that says Australian consumers will pay for unique content, and that doesn’t change at all. In actual fact, we’ll continue to invest into journalism to be able to deliver those unique audiences and content, that people are engaged with.

Domain’s sales team will continue to operate separately, but Stephenson wouldn’t disclose any detail around the potential for a joint sales team with Macquarie Media, should Nine acquire John Singleton’s 32% stake. Talks are currently underway between Nine and Singleton over a deal, and Nine CEO Marks has previously flagged the potential for joint talent opportunities.

“It’s too early to speculate. Hugh’s given his views in terms of where those conversations are at,” he said.

Stephenson is more focused on the opportunities that come with moving the Fairfax Media and Nine sales teams into the one office within each metro market.

“We now have such a diverse range of opportunities,” he said.

“The key focus for us must be on not trying to bite off more than we can chew. So being structured in terms of what opportunities we should roll out first, and then what the plan is beyond that. I’m a big believer that you need to move on the margins and improve over time, and that’s what we’ll do. So the biggest challenge has been to make sure everybody doesn’t get carried away on day one.”

Nine finished its first day of trading at $1.60 a share. Market capitalisation at 4pm yesterday was $2.72b.


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