Smart TV company Vizio Inc. in Irvine has been making the leap from tech to media, and entertainment industry veteran Adam Townsend is ready to help in his new role as chief financial officer.
Townsend, who took over on May 5, told the Business Journal he looks forward to guiding the company from being “a well-established hardware player into a range of media and content platform opportunities.”
He will have a senior strategic role to strengthen the company’s position in screen and audio device segments, while expanding its presence in connected TVs and bolstering Vizio’s TV ad sales business.
Townsend most recently was executive vice president and CFO for New York-based Showtime Networks Inc. Previously, he held EVP roles at CBS Corp., covering corporate finance and investor relations.
The Vizio brand is the stuff of legend. William Wang co-founded the company in 2002, and eventually built the business to be the world’s No. 2 seller of flat-panel TVs behind Samsung.
Wang, whose company also makes sound bars and other products, is estimated by the Business Journal to have a fortune of nearly $840 million.
Townsend says the coronavirus pandemic highlights the need to track consumer data closely, especially with more viewers staying home and watching TV. The company has seen a big boost in TV sales the past two months, according to company officials.
Townsend added that “we don’t know what the economic impacts are going to be yet and how long they will last.”
The company, which calls itself the “#1 American-based TV brand” based on industry statistics, has set up a new division called Vizio Ads to help the push toward better consumer tracking, using its SmartCast TV platform.
“The screen is real estate,” Townsend said, adding that the goal is to use data to provide ads to consumers there. “Ad dollars will follow eyeballs. We know that consumers are looking to get content in new ways.”
Advertisers need to convince the viewer to buy something targeted for him or her, rather than the “old model where you just throw a bunch of ads out and hope that it’s relevant to somebody,” Townsend said.
“Advertising a minivan to a young single person at home—it’s not a relevant ad to that individual and you would know that if you had data that would support that, and you can serve that consumer a more relevant advertisement.”
“There is a long-term tailwind to movement to digital consumption, more streaming,” he said. “We’re going to have to evolve the business.”
He emphasized that “hardware”— TVs and sound bars—is still the cornerstone of the Vizio business.
“William really enjoys the strength that they have in that,” Townsend said of Wang. “And he’s looking for additional ways to grow the overall business and tap into these new opportunities that are now emerging, again having the hardware be the cornerstone.”
Townsend took on CFO duties from Ben Wong, who continues in his other roles as chief operating officer and president.
And for those who remember Vizio weighing a possible IPO, Townsend said there are no plans for that now, though “perhaps” it would make sense further down the road.