With the well-regarded executive, a member of the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, leaving, Discovery has promoted Ben Price to lead Discovery's U.S. ad sales organization as president.
Abruzzese joined Discovery in 2002, at the time making an unusual move from broadcast at CBS to cable at Discovery. Abruzzese helped Discovery become recognized as being among the top TV ad sales teams, often generating sales growth even when the overall market was weak.
Abruzzese, 69, said that this was the time to leave. "I really believe I'm leaving this place better than when I got here," he said. "Also it looks like television is back. People see that television works."
For retirement, Abruzzese said he had few plans. He might work on his golf game and have more time for charitable efforts.
While putting together his departure plans, Abruzzese told Discovery CEO David Zaslav that he would guide Discovery through its upfront, through third quarter scatter and manage a transition to new leadership.
Discovery is done with its upfront negotiation, generating increased volume with price hikes in the high single-digit range, according to people familiar with the situation.
"Joe has defined what it means to lead with integrity, has made clients into friends, built the best ad sales organization in the business – including our new leader Ben Price – and created fantastic value for Discovery and our shareholders," said Zaslav in a statement. "He is a great person, an incredible friend and on behalf of the Discovery leadership team, our board of directors and the entire Discovery family we say thank you, Joe. You are the gold standard."
Price has been with Discovery for 27 years. He is currently executive VP, national ad sales, splitting time between New York and Los Angeles and overseeing Discovery's regional sales offices.
"With 27 years at Discovery, Ben is incredibly well-prepared for this important role," said Paul Guyardo, chief commercial officer of Discovery, to whom Price will report. "His knowledge of our clients, company and ad sales team is stellar. I wish Joe all the best and look forward to working with Ben to drive long-term growth for our advertisers and our business."
Before joining Discovery Abruzzese was head of sales at CBS for 11 years. Before CBS, he worked at NBC in sports sales, planning and business affairs.