Longtime ABC Ad Sales Chief Calls It Quits

Mike Shaw, who’s sold air time for the Alphabet since 1999, will step down by year’s end. Is it another sign of the difficulties of pitching old-fashioned commercials?

Last Updated: November 30, 2009 @ 6:55 PM

Veteran ABC ad sales chief Mike Shaw is leaving the company — and his depature could be seen as another sign of just how difficult it’s become for networks to sell time to Madison Ave.

Shaw will step down by month’s end and take on a new role as strategic advisor to his current boss, Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney/ABC TV Group.

“I have decided to step down at this time in order to pursue a number of personal goals. I have had a great 20 years at the Walt Disney Co., with the last 10 years as ABC’s President of Sales being the highlight of my career," Shaw said in a statement released Monday. "I’ll continue in this role for the next few months to ensure a smooth transition, and then look forward to working on a number of projects for the company over the next year.”

Sweeney praised Shaw as a "visionary ad sales executive."

Shaw’s "efforts have helped reshape our industry, most recently through his championing the live-plus-seven and live-plus-C3 metrics that are now the currency of our business," she said. "While we’re sorry that he’s decided to step back from the day-to-day, we’re thrilled that he’s left us with such an amazing team and that he’ll remain involved as a strategic advisor.”

Broadcasting and Cable, which broke the news of Shaw’s exit, reported that Shaw had come to the conclusion that he’s "had enough of the tough fight that is network sales these days."

ABC said a replacement for Shaw would be named shortly. B&C said Disney may be interested in creating a new role overseeing ad sales for all of its units.

Shaw, who had served as president of sales and marketing for ABC, joined the network in 1999 and was promoted to his current post in 2000. In addition to sales and integrated marketing for ABC, he also oversaw Disney/ABC Unlimited, the cross-platform unit at Disney. He had previously worked for Disney’s syndication unit.

The old-school executive has helped ABC take advantage of its strength among young, upscale female viewers in recent years. But this year was tough, as ABC– along with other networks– pulled in less money in the upfront ad marketplace (in part because they held back more inventory for later in the season).

Nonetheless, multiple reports had ABC tying CBS for the lead in overall upfront dollars.

In an interview with TV Week earlier this year, Shaw tried to put an upbeat face on what’s been a tough marketplace for broadcasters.

“It’s no more cable’s year than it was last year,” Shaw told the magazine, which has since converted to a web-only venture. “I’m having a hard time seeing how I’m going to lose money in this marketplace.”