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Discovery Presses for Higher Ad Prices at ID in Early Upfront Talks (EXCLUSIVE)

Advertisers are being asked to take a harder look at Investigation Discovery, the cable network that is packed with programs about crime and murder.

Discovery Inc. is pressing media buyers to pay higher prices for advertising on the network, according to four executives familiar with the discussions, part of the company’s negotiations in TV’s annual “upfront,” when U.S. networks try to sell the bulk of their advertising inventory for the coming season.

Getting higher prices for ID, as the network is often known, is one of Discovery’s first major initiatives under Jon Steinlauf, who was named Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer at the company after its recent $11.9 billion purchase of Scripps. Steinlauf oversaw Scripps’ ad sales efforts. Discovery declined to make executives available for comment.

The network is known for its focus on true crime stories, and features series such as “Cuff Me If You Can” and “Deadly Women” along with rebroadcasts of NBC’s “Dateline” and CBS’ “48 Hours.”

Buyers say Discovery’s effort comes as other owners of networks that may not be ranked in TV’s top-tier are making a bid for bigger dollars. These networks, these buying executives say, have seen ratings surges in recent years, but have kept to older pricing relationships. At a time when advertisers are questioning TV’s power to assemble larger audiences, showing new ratings power is paramount – and allows the owners to make the case for better rates. Hallmark Channel is another network making a similar case in this year’s discussions, according to one buying executive.

Steinlauf is known as one of the industry’s quieter executives. He doesn’t cultivate an outsize figure or make big pronouncements at conferences. But he does hone in on interesting sales maneuvers that often spark Madison Avenue’s interest. His pitch this year, for instance has been to emphasize the live viewership drawn by the new, broader Discovery portfolio. In 2015, he tried to use new data capabilities to help advertisers on Food Network and other Scripps holdings to find the programs most likely to attract consumers of things like yogurt (the answer, as it turned out, was Food Network’s weekend-morning lineup, which included “Guy’s Big Bite” on Sundays).

Discovery CEO David Zaslav is said to have been impressed by Steinlauf’s acumen in finding ways to get advertisers to gradually pay more money for programming. According to one person familiar with the matter, Zaslav was particularly interested in the prices Steinlauf had boosted for Travel Channel, a Scripps holding Discovery had offloaded in 2007. Scripps acquired a controlling stake in the network in 2009, then purchased the rest in 2016.

While Discovery is pressing for better pricing at ID, it’s not clear Steinlauf has achieved its goal. “I’m not sure he’s succeeded just yet,” said one media-buying executive “He has a lot of other stuff to sell.”

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