Warner Bros. Discovery flexed its content portfolio muscle during its New York upfront presentation Wednesday morning, parading a lineup of content producers, celebrities and executives in front of attending advertisers.
Nearly a year after announcing the merger, Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav opened the festivities by positioning the newly combined company as the “fifth broadcast network” that surpasses the reach of the four broadcast networks combined among audiences 25-54.
“We have the largest reach with the most complete portfolio, including news and sports,” he said.
Zaslav also said he’s confident that the combined service will thrive in a crowded marketplace. “We are highly confident in our ability to thrive both creatively and financially,” he said. “We are the largest maker of television and motion picture content in the world.”
CNN Worldwide chairman and CEO Chris Licht outlined several new CNN shows, including Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace, which was originally slated for the now-defunct CNN Plus streaming service but will now air Sunday nights on HBO Max. He also announced the network will reimagine its weekday morning lineup, vowing to be a “disruptor to the broadcast shows in this space."
Other WBD personalities such as Oprah Winfrey, Food Network’s Guy Fieri and Turner Sports’ Ernie Johnson sent video messages touting upcoming programming and the overall on-air strength of the combined company.
Warner Bros. Discovery also rolled out other celebrities to announce new shows, including musical artist Lizzo, who will appear in a new HBO documentary focusing on her life and career. Actress Mindy Kaling also touted her new Scooby-Doo spinoff animated series Velma focusing on a brown-skinned, South Asian version of the brainy sleuth. “If people freak out about that, I don’t care,” she said.
Actress/singer Jennifer Hudson served as host throughout the upfront, touting her upcoming Warner Bros.-produced talk show and introducing a litany of popular celebrities and shows within the Warner Bros. Discovery portfolio, including CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Magnolia Network’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, and Food Network celebrity chef Bobby Flay. She also interviewed HGTV's Jonathan Scott and rapper/ home decorator Lil John and invited the audience to participate in singing her version of Aretha Franklin's classic song Respect to close out the presentation. ■
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.