Jodi Chisarick of 20th Television on Advancing Syndication

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Jodi Chisarick, Senior Vice President and General Sales Manager, 20th Television, is a fan of big screen TV.  Yes, she also consumes media on other platforms, but only when she is out of home.  For her, nothing but the big screen will do.  She is a media veteran, working for Fox since 1995.  Such longevity is rare in media nowadays and she sometimes reflects on the road not taken.  “[I ask myself] did I do the right thing for my career by staying in the same place for so long and in such a specific area?” she recently told me.  “Maybe if I moved around I would have been exposed to things beyond syndication.  But then I realize that I had the ability to raise my three children as well as run the department that I grew up in.  And I love my job!”  In this exclusive interview we talk about television syndication, how she manages her hectic work schedule and the advice she gives to the future generation of media executives.

Charlene Weisler:  What is your definition of TV and where do you see the future of linear TV?

Jodi Chisarick:  My definition of TV is watching a TV show on my TV set.  I do watch on mobile and on the computer but it tends to be when I am traveling or commuting.  If I am at home I would never choose to watch it on any other screen than my big TV screen.  There has been a lot of conversation over the past couple of years about what is the future of linear TV.  When you look at the quality of shows being produced -- whether on Netflix or HBO or cable or broadcast -- and you look at the amount of people you still reach through linear TV, you realize that it is not going anywhere anytime soon.  There will still be challenges and changes and we may see some of the long-tail, third-tier cable networks not surviving.  There might be fallout but I still think that content is what it is all about.  Without the right content, there's nothing to watch, no matter where you're trying to watch it.  The most money is still being spent on linear TV content.  Because that is still the best way to reach a mass audience.

Weisler:  What are the opportunities and challenges going forward in syndication?

Chisarick:  Over the past two Upfronts we have definitely seen the opportunity for syndication.  We're viewed live, have shorter pods and reach more people than a lot of broadcast television and a lot of cable TV.  We're a more efficient vehicle and have seen a tremendous increase in demand in syndication from the last Upfront and even heading into scatter for next year.  People are retooling how they're using linear TV.  One of our biggest challenges is that there are a lot of [younger] people out there who aren't quite sure what syndication is and what bucket we fit into.  We go into agencies and give a Syndication 101 presentation -- what is it, how it's bought -- and we try to make ourselves stand out.  We're told we are not sexy enough and that we have too many repeats, so we have met with a lot of outside companies to come up with different opportunities that we can offer advertisers.  Unless it's first-run programming, we can't offer integration, sponsorships and branding in the off-net shows.  We have come up with a couple of different ways to create custom content so advertisers can tie into their favorite off-net shows.  But it's a slow go.

Weisler:  Are there any innovations that have helped?

Chisarick:  We're doing these native-in-video ads that are digitally integrating a product into the content, but the agencies don't know where to fund it because there are no GRPs against it.  It's not a commercial but it doesn't come from digital.  We want to be able to offer 360-degree and turnkey opportunities but also be able to execute them, as well as get the agencies and clients to execute them.  We need to think out of the box to make this happen.

Weisler:  Did you always want to go into sales?

Chisarick:  I studied advertising in college and I think I have the right personality for sales.  Once I was in sales at CBS I just knew that this is what I wanted to do.  What I always loved most about this business is that I could have an interesting conversation with anyone around a dining room table and talk about what I did.  I love television.  I'm a big network TV watcher and I can go home and still be in my work world.

Weisler:  So how do you achieve life balance?

Chisarick:  It is really hard, especially with a long commute.  I do the best I can and I have always worked for very understanding management. So if I needed to leave early it was not a problem.  I am very lucky that I have three very independent children.  My husband pitches in to help when he can and I always had help at home.  Despite being tired all the time, I'm happy that I didn't take time off when having children so I could continue in my career.  I think it would be hard to re-enter the workforce after a few years out of it.  I'm lucky, too, that I live in a town where everyone helps each other out.  It does take a village!

Weisler:  What advice would you give a college student today about a career in media?

Chisarick:  Definitely get digital experience.  TV is still king but having digital experience is good on your resume.  Be patient, work hard, thank people for the opportunities that come your way and double-check your work.  Be responsible for your work.  It is a hard business.  It's not what it used to be.  Companies are running leaner than they were before.  But it's still a great business.  You'll love it!  And, my advice to management is to bring the younger people into meetings so they can see how the process works and how decisions are being made.

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