Broadcast TV Ad Sales Pioneer Jo Ann Ross Ends Decades-Long Run At CBS And Paramount Global

Jo Ann Ross, whose lengthy run as the head of ad sales at CBS represented a breakthrough for a woman in the traditionally male-dominated field, is formally winding down her tenure at Paramount Global.

In September 2022, Ross segued to an advisory role, becoming Chairman of Paramount Advertising as John Halley was elevated to President, overseeing day-to-day ad sales. On Tuesday, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish informed employees in a memo that Ross would officially exit the company next week after “having helped prime our sales team for another strong upfront season.”

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Ross had been one of the few division heads from CBS Corp. to remain in charge after the company’s merger with Viacom closed in December 2019. Along with the merger integration, the next two years would present Ross and her industry colleagues with Biblical challenges in coping with Covid, which wiped out sports and production for months, not to mention wining-and-dining.

During her run at CBS, which coincided with the network’s rise to ratings dominance, Ross made a splash each year at the company’s upfront presentation to advertisers at New York’s Carnegie Hall. She took evident satisfaction from helping front a number of over-the-top set pieces. One memorable one featured her wearing a skirt onto which overt messages like “BUY” and “YOUR AD HERE” were flashed.

Ross joined CBS in 1992 as VP of Olympics advertising, helping the network’s efforts for three straight Winter Games telecasts. She later became the first woman to lead a broadcast network’s ad sales troops and went on to become the longest-tenured head of sales in television, according to Bakish’s memo.

Ross played a role in helping the company reap record-setting revenue and viewership for last February’s Super Bowl, Bakish noted. The top exec called Ross “a driving force for the advancement of our company and the industry at large.”

Here is Bakish’s full memo:


As our ad sales organization continues its momentum, Jo Ann Ross has decided to step down from her role as Chairman of Paramount Advertising at the end of the month, having helped prime our sales team for another strong Upfront season.

Jo Ann has steered our advertising business from one milestone to the next. She oversaw the successful integration and evolution of our combined ad sales organization in the midst of the pandemic. She was also instrumental in reimagining our Upfront last year, a format that others have tried to replicate. More recently, Jo Ann was essential in our efforts to deliver a historic Super Bowl LVIII that set a record for viewership and gross ad revenue, topping off an impressive roster of storied Super Bowls since joining CBS in 1992.

In a career defined by “firsts,” Jo Ann has been a driving force for the advancement of our company and the industry at large. Her legacy is simply unmatched as the longest-tenured sales head in television and the first woman to serve as sales chief of a broadcast network. Again and again, she’s shown a natural ability to create tremendous value for our advertising clients and for Paramount, tapping into new areas of growth and developing game-changing partnerships. From the early days of establishing unprecedented brand integrations for now iconic franchises like Survivor, to the launch of Paramount+ and the expanded premium streaming video opportunity for advertisers, to her integral role in the formation of our ongoing partnership with TNT Sports for the NCAA Tournament, Jo Ann has had an indelible impact that will continue for years to come.

A dedicated mentor, Jo Ann has paved the way for countless others. She was pivotal in the creation of The Exchange, which brings together women leaders in advertising to foster meaningful connections and conversation, and the ANA’s SeeHer movement to increase the representation and accurate portrayal of women and girls in media, marketing and entertainment. She also facilitated the development of Paramount’s Sales Associate program, an initiative to diversify the sales team’s entry-level workforce pipeline. Jo Ann’s unwavering commitment to making a difference extends to her longtime support of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s annual Cycle for Survival and her work as an active board member of Reisenbach Philanthropies, the Ad Council, the International Radio and Television Society, the Video Advertising Bureau and FourBlock, an organization for veteran career readiness.

Above all, Jo Ann cares deeply about her teammates, clients and peers — relationships built around trust, respect and reliability as hallmarks of her character and trailblazing career. Her passion for her work and determination to win have made Paramount a must-buy and key partner to the biggest advertisers in the world. And, under the continued leadership of John Halley, the sales organization is well positioned for future success.

I hope you’ll join me in thanking Jo Ann for her incredible service, stewardship and contributions to Paramount and our industry. We will miss her and her infectious sense of humor, and we wish her the very best.


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