Discovery Solutions to Explore Cross-Media World

Discovery Communications Inc. is about to walk among such media behemoths as AOL Time Warner, The Walt Disney Co. and Viacom Inc. to compete for cross-platform deals.

As part of his newly expanded duties as DCI executive vice president and general manager of U.S. ad sales and global integrated partnerships, Bill McGowan said last Thursday that he will oversee Discovery Solutions, its customizable, one-stop-shopping, cross-platform initiative.

The unit will offer agencies and their clients "the full array of [DCI] media assets, as well as our retail stores," he said.

McGowan, who estimated that he will now oversee a worldwide ad-sales force of more than 240 people, added that he can also offer specific programs or individual assets in the U.S. and elsewhere, "depending on clients' needs."

DCI has a list of top-priority targets among prospective multinational clients, which he said includes those that have been associated with Discovery Channel's previous "Watch with the World" global stunts, such as Raising the Mammoth
and Cleopatra's Palace: In Search of a Legend.
Ford Motor Co. and Apple Computer are among those on that list, he added.

"We are in active presentations and discussions with a number of agencies and clients," he said without disclosing names.

As cross-platform deal-making becomes more and more prevalent, McGowan said, "You don't necessarily have to revolve around the broadcast TV season any longer. My prediction is that the upfront as we know it — a six-week buying season where the vast majority of a season's purchases are made — will clearly transition to a year-round marketplace."

There will be higher back-office costs entailed in converting such global sponsorships from a one-network single event to an ongoing, company-wide venture, he said. But "we will bear whatever costs are involved."

Rather than staffing up for this initiative, he said, DCI will "reallocate existing [personnel] resources." Two key appointments include one recent hire — Evan Sternschein as Discovery Networks U.S. senior vice president of ad sales last February — and the promotion of Discovery Networks senior vice president Ben Price to head Discovery Solutions.

There have been no new sales developments pertaining to DCI's video-on-demand venture, McGowan added.