Warner Bros. Discovery Closes Upfront With $6 Billion in Ad Commitments

Warner Bros. Discovery upfront
Warner Bros. Discovery's upfront presentation in May (Image credit: Warner Bros. Discovery)

It might have taken a little extra time, but Warner Bros. Discovery concluded its upfront negotiations, securing nearly $6 billion in commitments from advertisers, according to CEO David Zaslav.

Speaking on Warner Bros. Discovery’s second-quarter earnings call Thursday, Zaslav said the company got low-to mid teen price increases for its inventory.

The 2022-23 upfront is the first for Warner Bros. Discovery, formed when Discovery acquired WarnerMedia from AT&T.

Also: Upfront: Warner Bros. Discovery Puts Sports in Its Premier Package

Both WarnerMedia and AT&T own cable networks and Zaslav has long complained that cable network get lower prices on a cost-per-thousand viewers basis than broadcasters, despite broadcast ratings declining and becoming more similar to cable audience levels.

In the face of an ad market softened by economic concerns about recession and inflation, Warner Bros. Discovery held out for higher price increases than other media companies. Other media companies got done with their upfront deals earlier, but Zaslav said he was pleased where WBD finished.

“We did very well at the upfront and believe we have meaningfully outperformed our peers,” Zaslav said. “We see ourselves as essentially the fifth broadcast network due to our unparalleled portfolio and our low to mid-teen CPM increases and our nearly $6 billion in commitments clearly demonstrates that advertisers now view us exactly that way.”

During the call, Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels noted that the ad market overall isn’t particularly strong presently.

Also: Disney Closes Out Upfront with $9 Billion in Ad Commitments

“Given the less favorable macro environment, we are seeing softer demand and the scatter market at the moment,” Wiedenfels said. “As such, we expect Q3 global ad sales to decline by high single to low double digits based on current booking trends.”

Despite the softness in the short-term scatter market, media companies sounded pleased with the outcome of the upfronts.

Earlier on Thursday during Paramount’s earnings call, CEO Bob Bakish insisted that Paramount increased its share of ad dollars during the upfront.

“It is worth noting that we recently had our strongest multi-platform unified upfront yet. We had broadcast and cable pricing increase at the same high single-digit rate. and we grew digital volume in the range of 30%. Most importantly, it's pretty clear that we grew share,” he said. 

Bakish said that Paramount offers advertiser more than scale. 

"To attract the best partners and build the best business, you've also got to make it easy and efficient for advertisers to reach their audiences of choice. And at this scale, we offer advertisers access to a wide variety of audiences across every demographic,” he said.

“At competitive pricing, that makes Paramount a must-buy for marketers who need to efficiently aggregate awareness around their products. We see our partners responding enthusiastically,” Bakish said. “Premium content with cross-platform scale and efficiency, it's this robust combination that differentiates Paramount in the ad marketplace and makes us a must-have partner for advertisers.”■

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.