Ad Sales Legend Jo Ann Ross to Exit Paramount Ahead of Upfront

After more than three decades at the company, Jo Ann Ross is exiting Paramount.

On Tuesday, Paramount announced that Ross, chairman of Paramount Advertising, is stepping down from the position at the end of the month.

In a memo to staff, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish noted the timing worked for the decision, with Ross “having helped prime our sales team for another strong upfront season.”

Ross joined CBS in 1992 as vp of Olympic sales, later becoming the first woman to serve as sales chief of a broadcast network and the longest-tenured sales head in broadcast television.

Bakish noted Ross’s many accomplishments in his staff memo, saying that the executive “steered our advertising business from one milestone to the next,” including overseeing the successful integration of a combined ad sales team in 2019 when CBS merged with Viacom and being “essential” in the company’s efforts to deliver a record-setting Super Bowl this year.

“In a career defined by firsts, Jo Ann has been a driving force for the advancement of our company and the industry at large,” Bakish wrote. “Her legacy is simply unmatched.”

Among her many highlights, following two years of virtual upfront presentations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ross led the company’s first in-person presentation under its new name, Paramount, in 2022. During the event, the executive turned the presentation into a live version of 60 Minutes and even performed a bit with the cast of the CBS comedy Ghosts.

“I will say very humbly that I think we all nailed it. And I think that there were a couple of jokes leading up, but we set the flag on the mountain. And [the Paramount name] rolls off everybody’s tongue very naturally now,” Ross told ADWEEK following the event.

Paramount’s ongoing transitions

Ross transitioned from her previous role of Paramount’s ad sales chief in 2022, with Paramount’s current sales head, John Halley, taking over.

When Ross announced she’d be taking the role of chairman, the former ad sales chief also noted that Halley was set to take the ad sales team to “new heights.” 

In addition to coming ahead of the upfront, Ross’s announcement happens at a time when Paramount is going through wider company transitions, with several potential buyers circling and the company exploring the sale of properties such as VidCon.

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