Thinking Out of the Box in Syndication. Interview with Jodi Chisarick of 21st Century Fox

Jodi Chisarick, Senior Vice President and General Sales Manager, 21st Century Fox, realized after changing her college major three times that communications was her forte. She started in the media business straight out of college at a small ad agency where she learned the national side of TV and advertising. From there she went to CBS Networks in planning and then to Fox in 1995 where she has been ever since. 

Such longevity is rare in media nowadays and she sometimes reflects on the road not taken. “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 mused. “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,” she concluded. 

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

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 it is 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 any time 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 is nothing to watch no matter where you are trying to watch it. The most money is still being spent on linear TV content. 

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 are viewed live, have shorter pods and reach more people than a lot of broadcast television and a lot of cable TV. We are a more efficient vehicle and we have seen a tremendous increase in demand in syndication from last upfront and even heading into scatter for next year. People are retooling how they are 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 is bought – and we try to make ourselves stand-out. We are told we are not sexy enough, we have too many repeats, we are only daytime so we have met with a lot of outside companies to come up with different opportunities to offer advertisers. Unless it is 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 to favorite off-net shows. But it is a slow go. We are 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 is not a commercial but it doesn’t come from digital. We want to be able to offer 360 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.

Charlene Weisler: Did you always want to go into sales?

Jodi Chisarick: I studied advertising in college and I think I have the right personality for sales. Once I was in sales in 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 am a big network TV watcher and I can go home and still be in my work world. 

Weisler: So how to 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 am happy that I did not 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 am 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 is not what it used to be. Companies are running leaner than they were before. But it is still a great business. You will 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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