Warner Bros. Discovery retains streaming connection details from the start
NEW YORK — Just six weeks after closing a powerful media merger, Warner Bros. Discovery held its first upfront showing Wednesday to a packed crowd at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden. Company executives and a long list of celebrity partners pitched the newly formed media giant as the equivalent of the fifth broadcast network, but were tight-lipped on how and when a combined streaming platform would be offered. would be deployed, although ad-supported video on demand is poised to be an area of investment and development for the company.
“We see a significant opportunity to extend our existing best-in-class advanced advertising products, both [HBO Max and Discovery+]while exploring new advertising products in the areas of interactivity, commerce and contextual targeting,” said JB Perrette, CEO and President of Global and Interactive Streaming for the company, at the event.
Warner Bros.’ portfolio of channels and brands. Discovery — spanning HBO, CNN, TNT, TBS, HGTV, Food Network and more — has had a year-to-date prime-time audience among coveted 25-to-54-year-olds that’s larger than the four networks broadcast combined,” CEO David Zaslav said during the presentation. Additionally, its HBO Max and Discovery+ streaming networks reach younger, more diverse audiences — 80% of whom watch on a large TV, with more than half cord-cutters — allowing advertisers to expand their reach in unwired homes.
In addition to ad-free options, HBO Max and Discovery+ offer ad lighting options that earned consumers high marks for ad loading and ad attention, according to data from Hub Entertainment Research cited in the presentation. By the end of the first quarter, the company announced over 100 million direct-to-consumer subscribers worldwide and boasted high engagement and low churn compared to competitors.
The company’s advertising offerings include custom partnerships that integrate brands into Warner Bros. content. Discovery, data-driven linear addressable ads that are available to 60% of all pay-TV households, expanded programmatic capabilities, and a partnership with Open AP around information and transactional flexibility, according to Jon Steinlauf, director of advertising sales in the USA.
The company also partnered with Comscore, iSpot.tv and VideoAmp to help develop a multi-currency market, a priority for all media conglomerates, as the move to streaming undermined Nielsen’s long-term dominance in the measurement of television.
Warner Bros. Discovery will allow advertisers to buy ads with its new Premiere package that combines ads from the company’s top-rated programs into a single plan that has a lower CPM than traditional broadcast. Compared to traditional primetime broadcast buys, advertisers will see an average of 55% more raw audience points and 23% more reach, with higher search engagement, Steinlauf said.
“We reach over 230 million people every month on our platforms. A high percentage of them are high-end, well-educated and diverse. They trust our brands and our talent – that trust fuels engagement and encourages them to buy new things,” Steinlauf noted.
Affluent viewers over 50 from Baby Boomers and Gen Xers account for more than 50% of all consumer spending in the United States, and Warner Bros. Discovery reaches 88% of that audience each month. Additionally, the company will offer price incentives for advertisers to reach wider targets, such as 18 or 25+.
Content is king
Traditionally, an upfront allows a network to make a flashy presentation about the content it has in store for consumers and advertisers who covet their attention. In this way, the first presentation of Warner Bros. Discovery didn’t disappoint, using the Hulu Theater to deliver blockbuster-sized teasers, celebrity appearances and music from host Jennifer Hudson. Company executives pointed out that its portfolio, spanning scripted and unscripted; TV, films and documentaries; sports and news; and international, has something for consumers of all ages, genders and multicultural backgrounds.
“Winners in the streaming business are the companies that provide the largest global consumer base with the greatest brand stories that act as curators for clear and compelling propositions across a diverse set of content genres that deliver the widest choice,” Perrette said.
To make its point, Warner Bros. Discovery called in the big guns, with live appearances from sports legends Shaquille O’Neal, Wayne Gretsky and Pedro Martinez; CNN anchor Anderson Cooper; chef Bobby Flay; wrestler-turned-TV personality John Cena; “Dirty Jobs” hosts Mike Rowe and more.
Superstars like Oprah Winfrey and Guy Fieri pre-taped their appearances, but Hudson set up a bizarre interview with “Property Brothers” star Jonathan Scott and rapper Lil Jon. The most memorable moment came when pop star Lizzo, announcing a planned HBO Max documentary this fall, shocked the crowd with her unfiltered banter. And even comic book characters from the Warner Bros. portfolio. Discovery had fun.
“Think of ad loads. Think of impressions. Think of all the corporate buzzwords,” said animated Batman villain Harley Quinn, voiced by Kaley Cuoco.