Warner Bros. Discovery Is Ready to Showcase Its Powerful New Brand at Upfront Week

Ad sales leadership previews new synergies for audience targeting, brand safety, diversity and inclusion and more

Warner Bros. Discovery now has a full year under its belt after the spin-off of WarnerMedia by AT&T and its merger with Discovery, Inc. So, what can advertisers expect from WBD during its 2023 upfront presentation?

Greg Regis, Jon Diament, Marybeth Strobel, all WBD EVPs of ad sales, as well as Jim Keller, EVP of digital ad sales and advanced advertising, sat down to discuss the biggest challenges for advertisers, what’s changing at the upfronts and their dream crossovers.

What are you most excited about in terms of this year’s upfronts?

Jim Keller: On the digital front, the most exciting thing is the enhanced streaming platform Max. We anticipate this property will be in high demand for both consumers and marketers, because it’s built on such amazing content: the dynamic HBO Original Series, an extensive Warner Bros. Discovery content library that reaches everyone, kids’ content that encourages families to watch together, and so much more.

Marybeth Strobel: I’m excited about our inclusive content solutions and partnerships, threaded through the entire portfolio. Our commitment to championing diversity and inclusion is at the forefront, both in front of and behind the camera. We’re developing environments for underrepresented communities, which is critical for evolution and growth.

Every year, it seems like the theme is that the upfronts will be different. What will make the upfronts different this year?

Greg Regis: We’re seeing a transition to more audience-based buying. With the application of data across various platforms—whether it’s OpenAP, VideoAmp or Comscore—clients have new, exciting frontiers to explore that go far beyond the limitations of the past. We know our clients are seeking optimal outcomes for their investments.

Jon Diament: We are seeing more consistent demand for live sports, and we anticipate that for this year’s upfront as well. Sports is becoming more prevalent based on the tonnage and the scale and the reach it provides in primetime. So, if you’re trying to launch a product in the second quarter, for example, you need to secure your positions early, because big products like the NBA and NHL playoffs sell out fast.

What should brands and media buyers expect to hear from Warner Bros. Discovery?

Strobel: What everyone saw last year was all the different pieces. This year, we’re going to showcase that we are truly one team, with a powerful, influential portfolio of premium entertainment, sports, news and lifestyle.

Diament: The sports demos are very young—and when you add in Adult Swim, truTV, Discovery Network and MotorTrend, you see a skew of people who don’t watch a lot of traditional television. We pride ourselves on reaching hard-to-reach, hard-to-deliver young consumers at great scale.

What are the challenges advertisers are facing—and how will the properties you represent help solve these challenges and deliver an impact?

Diament: Advertisers can find themselves in a category with a lot of competition. In sports, we want to help advertising partners stand out by building sponsorships that are unique and that will provide great ROI. We can lean on our sports properties to accomplish this; for example, an advertiser can be an official marketing partner of a league, an athlete or a team.

Regis: Attention is the No. 1 challenge right now, and the marriage of reach with content and context is an important differentiator. You can cobble an audience together through the platforms, but if you can do that with the content that is connected between the platforms, that’s an important facet.

Strobel: We recognize advertisers are keenly aware of the environment where their messages and campaigns live. Context is critically important. The programming my team represents—like 90 Day Fiancé, The Big Bang Theory, Tournament of Champions and more—provides fun, familiar, trusted and comfortable experiences that give advertisers a supportive foundation to build relationships with consumers.

In the age of media convergence, advertisers need assurance that their investments are being maximized in a cross-platform manner. How do you think about this on a day-to-day basis?

Keller: Our WBD portfolio digital video offering scales all our digital endpoints including our TV Everywhere app, our VOD offerings and our partnerships with third-party digital entities, among others. That offering allows us to deliver over 100 million consumers each month. We have over 140 ready-to-go targeting segments that can be applied across our entire digital ecosystem, tailored to the specific content consumers are watching. Layered across our award-winning content, this effort both eliminates waste and creates an ROI that gives a halo effect to clients’ media plans.

What’s your dream synergy across the Warner Bros. Discovery portfolio?

Regis: It’s almost inevitable that at some point Guy Fieri will be barbecuing for Shaq and Chuck [Charles Barkley] and Kenny [Smith] and Ernie [Johnson]. It writes itself. He is an inveterate NBA fan, and you will often catch Guy at the All-Star Weekend with his son. I can just see in my mind’s eye Guy, Shaq and Charles having a time in front of some barbecue.

Keller: A lot of people say they’d love to see Charles Barkley on Naked and Afraid—and that would be a pretty amazing show. We’re ripe for so many different types of collaborations, whether it’s some of our home designers and retailers redesigning the NBA studio set, or infusing TLC reality stars into Bleacher Report.