Discovery Communications execs opened the cable group’s upfront presentation at Jazz at Lincoln Center with a pitch about how keenly engaged viewers are in the range of programs that air across its 14 networks.
“Our super fans are like no others. What sets Discovery apart is a curiosity effect,” said ad sales topper Joe Abruzzesse. “Our audiences are more likely to engage with your message and purchase your product because we make our talent your talent.”
Discovery, TLC, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery and OWN unveiled a tidal wave of fresh series and specials for the coming season in advance of Thursday’s presentation. The upfront presentation marked a parade of stars and executives touting the strength of the individual brands with distinct demographic groups.
Daredevil Nik Wallenda (pictured) promoted his plan for a tightrope walk across Chicago’s famous skyline in the fall. Willie Geist, who will host Wallenda’s special, came out on stage on a tightrope that was about 18 inches off the stage. “We are going to Chicago this fall,” Wallenda told the crowd, promising that there would be a “twist” to his latest live stunt special.
Imagine Entertainment partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer were on hand to talk up the digital content venture that they are launching partnership with Discovery, which was also announced Thursday.
“Brian and I are looking to create great scripted programming and we can’t wait to work with Discovery. Technology is rapidly changing the entertainment landscape and we couldn’t think of a better partner with (to explore that landscape) than Discovery,” Howard said.
TLC turned to the pint-sized star of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” to open its portion of the presentation. “Let’s get this party started,” she said.
Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav reinforced TLC’s femme-focused appeal to heartland viewers.
“We are a big country and TLC takes you to real places,” he said. “It’s all about heart and family.”
Actress Leah Remini was there to pitch the docu-series upcoming on her family which “proves that real life is a lot funnier than fiction,” she said.
Roseanne Barr, host of Investigation Discovery’s “Momsters with Roseanne Barr,” joked about her “addition” to the channel that trades on grisly true crime stories.
“A day without a ransom note and shallow graves is like a day without sunshine,” she said. “Trust me there is no escape from the rigors of motherhood. Even mom spelled backwards in mom.”
Zaslav talked up the makeover of Military Channel into the more marketable American Heroes Channel. The name change took affect March 3. Zaslav promised 17 new series and specials in 2014.
“We are going to spend a lot of money. There are so many stories about real heroes that are going to be on this network. It’s a great time for heroes,” he said.