Fox Cable’s Lou LaTorre sells more than ads
By Joel Topcik -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/7/2006 8:00:00 PM
Lou LaTorre is a natural storyteller. Anyone who has been regaled with his yarns about the early days of Turner Broadcasting or a sales pitch on the “growth story” of a regional broadcaster would agree that the man knows how to tell a tale. It’s a gift that has distinguished LaTorre’s more than 25 years in TV-ad sales.
As president of advertising sales for Fox Cable Networks, LaTorre directs sales strategy and operations for channels including FX, National Geographic Channel, FSN, Speed and Fuel TV. Now entering his 10th year at Fox, he is bringing his creative flare to the challenge of finding new ways to sell Fox programming across a variety of new platforms.
“I’m probably more intellectually excited than ever before with this current market and all the emerging technologies,” LaTorre says.
But before finding his way to TV—or sales—LaTorre was an ad-agency man. After graduating with a B.A. in business administration from Baruch College in Manhattan, the Brooklyn native did stints at Ted Bates & Co. and Grey Advertising.
DRINKING THE KOOL-AID
Along the way, LaTorre discovered a passion for market research. He joined RKO General as research director of its West Coast group of seven stations, but he soon was encouraged to try selling TV-ad time. LaTorre saw a chance to use his affinity for data and research to distinguish RKO stations in their markets: “It was creating a compelling story and going out and telling it.”
But it was the “great story” behind Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) that led him to take up with the nascent cable system in 1979 as national sales manager. LaTorre relished TBS’ underdog status and the challenge of getting advertisers to see past the limited distribution to appreciate the desirably upscale cable audience.
Meeting Ted Turner only deepened his enthusiasm. “I drank the Kool-Aid,” he says with a laugh. “Ted laid out the dream and what the future would look like, and I believed it.”
LaTorre went on to become executive VP of Turner Entertainment Group. He declined when offered the top slot in 1992 and left to start Prostar Entertainment, a satellite-encryption company. When the venture foundered over financing, LaTorre signed on with New World Communications to head up business development at the station group, and soon became president/COO.
When News Corp. acquired New World three years later, Fox Cable Networks tapped LaTorre to corral the sales divisions into a unified culture.
He promptly consolidated the far-flung force into one building and helped bring the cable-networks team in line with the other sales and programming units at News Corp. To this day, integration remains the credo as the company explores emerging platforms and advertising models.
“We collaborate as teammates across these division lines,” LaTorre says, noting recent projects with the new Fox Interactive Media unit. “Six years ago, we talked about product placement. Now it involves an entire marketing program that sort of wraps its arms around the content as it cascades across all of the distribution platforms.”
Indeed, LaTorre’s team is engaged early on with that content when devising marketing schemes, often when programs are in the pilot stage. LaTorre cites the recently unveiled “Rescue Me 2.5”—a mini-episode of the popular FX series to be offered with exclusive sponsorships on wireless, online and video-on-demand—as a product of the “creative thinking” he encourages.
Fox Broadcasting entertainment chief Peter Liguori, who worked with LaTorre as president/CEO of FX, praises his friend’s creative involvement: “He’s someone who really is invited in as more than just a sales person but truly as a business partner.”
For LaTorre, being involved at the programming level is essential to crafting a sales strategy. “Liguori would kid me that maybe I’d want to come out and write some of the scripts,” he says. “But I think it’s the only way to do it.”
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