After Wrapping Upfront Talks, Discovery, Inc Restructures Ad Sales Around 12 Top Networks

‘Significant’ layoffs this week as company fully merges with Scripps

Discovery's No. 1 upfront priority was securing pricing gains for ID, home to shows like Homicide Hunter.

Ever since he was tapped to run ad sales for the merged Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks Interactive companies in March, Jon Steinlauf has been hinting at a major restructuring as he combined the two sales teams. “There’s going to be change, probably later in the year,” he told Adweek in April. “Right now, we’re all focused on the upfront.”

And now that Discovery, Inc has wrapped its upfront negotiations for the first time as a combined company—in what Steinlauf said is one the most lucrative upfront hauls ever for a cable portfolio (see more below)—he is rolling out his new structure for the ad sales team, which also includes several layoffs, this week.

Steinlauf, the former Scripps ad sales chief, is focusing on 12 of Discovery, Inc’s 17 networks. He is reorganizing the sales teams around three network bundle structures of four networks each—grouped by synergies in audience, content and ad categories—and built around three “leader channels” with the strongest brand identities and CPM history: HGTV, Food Network and Discovery.

The first bundle includes HGTV, ID, Animal Planet and DIY. HGTV and DIY were partnered together at Scripps, while ID and HGTV share engaged female audiences (they finished No. 1 and No. 2 most months in women 25-54 among cable networks). And Animal Planet fits in because of the crossover between home owners and pet owners.

Greg Regis, who comes from Scripps and is currently svp of advertising sales and media partnerships, will become evp, national advertising sales and oversee that bundle.

Bundle No. 2 includes Food Network, TLC, Cooking Channel and OWN. Food and Cooking had been paired at Scripps, while TLC and OWN represent broader appeal, pop culture and lifestyle programming. And given TLC and OWN’s food connections (with Cake Boss and the just-concluded Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s respectively), Steinlauf sees an opportunity for food brands to expand to those networks.

Karen Grinthal, svp of advertising sales for Food Network and Cooking Channel, will become evp, national advertising sales, and head up that bundle.

The third bundle is comprised of the portfolio’s male-focused networks: Discovery, Travel, Science and Motor Trend Network (formerly known as Velocity). That will be headed up by Discovery’s Scott Kohn, currently group svp of regional advertising sales, who like Regis and Grinthal have been promoted to evp, national advertising sales.

That leaves five other networks in the portfolio that won’t be priorities for the sales team: Destination America, Great American Country, American Heroes Channel, Discovery Life and Discovery Family. Steinlauf said he will continue to sell them in the upfront but “they’ll be more in the DR [direct-response] market on a day-to-day basis.”

Separately, Steinlauf is forming a client partnerships team (headed by John Daily, svp, partnership sales), that will work with brands interested in buying cross-platform, cross-bundle and tapping into its other offerings, like audience targeting platform Engage.

“When two great companies come together, it’s somewhat unavoidable that you’re going to wind up losing some great people.”
Jon Steinlauf, chief U.S. advertising sales officer, Discovery, Inc

As part of its restructuring, Discovery is laying off what sources called a “significant” portion of its ad sales team, pegging the number of exiting employees in the double digits. Discovery and Steinlauf declined to comment on specific numbers.

“When two great companies come together, it’s somewhat unavoidable that you’re going to wind up losing some great people,” said Steinlauf. “Unfortunately, that’s the position we find ourselves in right now.”

In March, the former Scripps ad sales chief was tapped to oversee ad sales for the combined Discovery, Inc as chief U.S. advertising sales officer. He then sprinted to pull off a united upfront event for the portfolio’s 17 networks.

Former Discovery ad sales chief Ben Price, who was passed over for the top spot, announced in April that he would be leaving the company after the upfront.

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