As if the national spot business isn't bad enough right now, Petry found out last week it will lose its largest single client next month: the Fox stations group, which bills about $800 million a year for national spots. Sources estimate that translates to annual commissions for Petry of as much as $50 million.
Fox has decided to sell its national spot business in-house—which is what the owned-stations divisions of the Big Three have all done for more than 20 years.
Fox will base its national sales unit in New York, where it will be headed by Debbie Carpenter, formerly vice president and general manager of Fox-owned WTTG-TV Washington.
Carpenter reports to Jim Burke, president of sales at the Fox Stations. Burke insisted last week that the decision to go in-house had nothing to with the performance of Petry as the group's rep firm. Rather, it's about Fox's ability "to more fully control its sales strategy going forward," he said.
Outside sources said Fox is betting that the national ad-sales market will turn around and be a better business more often than not in the future. "In good times, you're leaving money on the table when you pay commissions," the source said. Petry executives didn't return calls seeking comment.