Warner Bros. Discovery Talks Up Max Launch at Upfront Presentation
CNN CEO Licht promises new look for CNN
Warner Bros. Discovery held its upfront presentation at the Theater at Madison Square Garden May 17 in New York. Pushing the tagline Dream Bold Here, John Steinlauf, Discovery chief U.S. ad sales officer, shared that the presentation is not exactly the show Warner Bros. Discovery planned to put in before the writers strike, adding that only executives would take the stage.
He boasted of WBD’s “ability to connect with people on a deeply human level and take them places they want to come back to, again and again and again.”
Steinlauf reminded attendees that streaming platform Max premieres May 23. He also announced the launch of WBD Stream, including content from Bleacher Report, Food Network, TNT, Animal Planet, ID and HGTV.
Next up was Sheereen Russell, executive VP of ad sales and inclusive content partnerships, Warner Bros. Discovery, who spoke of inclusive content stacks for advertisers, and “creating a standard of inclusivity within our industry.”
Then it was Chris Licht, CNN Worldwide chairman and CEO. “CNN’s role in society has never been more important or more crucial than it is right now,” he said. “When the world needs the truth, they can trust us to deliver it.”
Licht spoke of prioritizing “reporting over punditry” and “news over noise.” He teased a “long overdue makeover” for the brand which will include a new graphics package. Licht described the package as “clean, modern and very easy to look at, just like Anderson Cooper.”
Speaking on screen, Cooper welcomed Kaitlan Collins to primetime.
Luis Silberwasser, chairman and CEO, Warner Bros. Discovery sports, spoke about King Charles, with Gayle King and Charles Barkley. “You can always expect the unexpected with those two,” he said.
The sports division stands out, he said, because “we love what we do, because we are fans ourselves.”
Silberwasser displayed the Stanley Cup while talking up NHL post-season programming, and welcomed the Inside the NBA team, on screen, to do the presentation’s halftime show. Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Barkley and Kenny Smith spoke.
Then host Taylor Rooks spoke about Bleacher Report, and Guy Fieri chatted about Tournament of Champions on Food Network, before Kathleen Finch, chairman and chief content officer, U.S. networks group, came out to talk up drama The Lazarus Project, which gets a sneak peek during the Stanley Cup before its official June 4 premiere. “We are so bullish on this series…,” said Finch “that we’ve already picked up season two.”
Ellen DeGeneres is behind the Discovery project Saving the Gorillas and Selena Gomez will do a holiday-themed cooking show for Food Network. Finch touted an Elf on the Shelf competition series, and HGTV’s Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge, hosted by Ashley Graham and showing stars of HGTV and Food Network building the dreamhouse.
Finch said of franchise shows in the WBD portfolio, “When fans like it, we reinvent it and make a lot more of it.
Jason Momoa was on screen to talk about hosting Shark Week on Discovery. The shark is “more than a predator,” he said. It’s “a guardian and a keeper of a spiritual bond.”
Octavia Spencer is behind the Lost Women of Highway 20 series on ID.
Finch said Big Bang Theory reruns a reboot of Dinner and a Movie bring both shows to a new generation of viewers on TBS.
Next out was JB Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming and games, who called the Max launch “our largest marketing push ever.” Viewers all prefer different programming, he added, “but we all want the best.”
Then it was Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO, HBO and HBO Max content, who expressed hope for a “fair resolution” to the strike. Amidst the launch of Max, he said, “HBO has not and is not changing course at all.”
Bloys called Sam Levinson drama The Idol provocative, and also teased a new season of True Detective, Kate Winslet drama The Regime and Robert Downey Jr. spy series The Sympathizer, along with Conan Must Go, which sees O’Brien travel the world, catching up with pals from his podcast.
Downey Jr. is on Downey’s Dream Cars, which sees him soup up vintage automobiles for the modern era. That premieres on Max June 22, same as the next season of And Just Like That.
Bruce Campbell, chief revenue and strategy officer, came out for a final thank you to advertisers, and the show was over an hour and 15 minutes after it began.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.