Discovery, Newly Merged With Scripps, Will Tout Live Viewing in Upfront Talks

Jon Steinlauf is ten days away from his new debut.

Steinlauf is no stranger to advertisers and media buyers. The veteran ad-sales executive had journeyed from Young & Rubicam to ESPN and Turner on his journey to the top ad-sales spot at Scripps Networks Interactive. Come March 20, however, he will take up a new role as Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer at Discovery Inc., the company formed out of Discovery Communications’ $11.9 billion purchase of Scripps.  In addition to selling Scripps perennials like Food Network and HGTV, Steinaluf will also go to market for the first time with Discovery Channel, OWN, TLC and several other networks.

“We are busy trying to figure out how to get ready for everything that’s going to happen in the next three months,” said Steinlauf, in an interview. The two companies have not been allowed to communicate until the merger was finalized, and Scripps had been gearing up for its regular activity before TV’s annual “upfront”  – a series of road shows to advertisers across the country. Now, the new ad-sales team has to rework the presentations so all the Discovery channels are included as well.

The new team intends to make the case that all the new company’s networks draw substantial live viewership. Discovery Inc. specializes in non-fiction programming, not scripted comedy and drama, a facet Steinlauf thinks might work to his advantage. “What we are noticing in the market is that, particularly on the female side, more and more of the scripted dramas and comedies are moving over to SVOD,” he said. “Both of the predecessor companies have very high concentrations of live viewing, strong brands and very passionate viewers. A lot of the advertising is more engaging.”

He will also suggest new combinations of networks that can help marketers better reach a target audience. Steinlauf suggested Scripps’ Travel Channel might be aligned with Discovery Channel and Science Channel for advertisers seeking male viewers. “Advertisers sometimes look for alternatives to sports where there is a high male composition,” he said. “We are looking at things like that.”

TV’s “upfront” typically gets underway in May. U.S. TV companies try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming programming cycle. TV executives have touted recent robust trends in teh purchase of so-called “scatter” advertising – or ad time purchased much closer to air date – as a sign this year’s market could be healthy. Advertisers typically don’t register ad budgets until May or June, and as a result, ad buyers are keeping mum so far on how the market might progress.

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