Discovery Crashing Broadcast Networks’ Upfront Party

Looking to assert its position as one of the scale players in the television advertising business, Discovery plans to plant its 2020 upfront presentation right in the middle of what has traditionally been the week dedicated to the broadcast networks pitches.

Discovery said it will be inviting clients and agency executives, as well as analysts and press to hear its 2020 upfront pitch on Tuesday May 12 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall.

“In the past year, post-merger, Discovery has significantly increased our scale, reach and leadership, putting us on par with the broadcasters in terms of the scope and significance of what we can deliver to advertisers,” said Steinlauf. “With the top networks for women, the number 1 non-sports cable network for men, nearly half of the top series on cable and the most engaged viewers in cable, now is the time for Discovery to showcase to current and prospective advertisers the impact that our real-life portfolio of iconic brands can have on their businesses.”

Upfront week has been dominated by the Big 4 broadcast networks, although in recent years, Turner, now WarnerMedia and ESPN have chipped away on behalf of cable. Digital video and streamers such as Hulu and YouTube, have been presenting to advertisers during the NewFronts, generally held the final week in April.

During the last few broadcast upfront weeks, NBCUniversal has led off Monday morning, with Fox following on Monday afternoon. Tuesday had been a Disney day, with ESPN presenting in the morning and ABC putting on its show in the afternoon. This year, Disney combined all of its assets into one presentation on Tuesday event.

With Tuesday morning open, AT&T’s Xandr advertising unit put on a Xandr Front to describe how its data, analytics and tech platform can help campaigns be more effective. A Xandr spokesperson said it was undecided whether Xandr planned to hold another alone presentation on Tuesday of upfront week or would combine its message with AT&T’s WarnerMedia, which does its presentation to advertisers and media buyers on Wednesday morning, preceding CBS’s upfront at Carnegie Hall.

The CW usually has the last upfront presentation on Thursday morning.

Discovery acquired Scripps Networks Interactive last year, just before Discovery’s upfront presentation in late April. This year, the combined company did its upfront presentation at Lincoln Center on April 10. Both Discovery and Scripps also traditionally held meetings with advertisers and buyers in cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Atlanta.

Discovery plans to continue to have those regional meetings, leading up to the big show in New York.

Since its merger, Discovery has been touting its scale, particularly among women viewers, where it claims more than a 20% among women 25-54 watching cable. But the company is looking to compete for broadcast dollars and get broadcast level pricing on a cost-per-thousand viewers (CPM) basis.

One tactic has been Discovery Premiere, which bundles the first-run episodes of Discovery’s top rated series and gives participating advertisers the A-positions within commercial pods. Discovery cites research showing that moving $1 million of a $5 million broadcast prime buy to Discovery Premiere resulted in a 12% lower CPM, 11% higher reach among adults 25 to 54, 13% more impressions and ad engagement that was up 56%.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav complained most recently that Discovery continues to get cable-level pricing while delivering close to network level ratings.

“CBS's prime CPM is $55 plus, and so is Fox. So we got the four players around us in price at $55 plus. We’re aggregating audience in prime across our networks. That’s bigger than all of them and we’re at a fraction of that. And so that’s always been the case with cable,” Zaslav said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call.

Zaslav said that for a $20 CPM, Discovery can deliver a 4 rating by aggregating the primetime audiences on its top channels, would seem to be better than buying a 0.8 on a broadcast network for a $55 or $58 CPM.

“So how do we capture that? We put together a program that I’m going hand-to-hand with Steinlauf and fighting for, to say, hey, I don’t do this as a favor to us, this is great for your clients,” he said.

Zaslav added that ratings for broadcast prime continue to shrink. “That’s a real goodie for us,” he said. Meanwhile Discovery’s fastest growing ad product is its Go apps, which attract a younger fans of its networks.

“I think we’re probably as well positioned as anybody right now, and we’ll just have to see how the market plays out,” Zaslav said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.