The duo, whose offices were next to each other, played a winning hand by strategically deploying and marketing the network’s wares, like “ER” and “Friends,” in all the right ways. And for a time, they were unstoppable.
That was more than two decades ago. But Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, who was an NBC cable exec back then, never forgot Manze’s and Beckman’s competitive spirit.
That’s why Zaslav recruited his former colleagues to help launch streamer Discovery Plus, which is by far his most important initiative yet. Manze and Beckman were hired to consult with Discovery’s various marketing teams and help put the finishing touches on a launch plan for the service, which officially went live Jan. 4.
“The world has changed a lot since our NBC days, but one thing stayed the same: Vince and Preston are still two of the best creative marketing people in the business,” Zaslav says. “I was thrilled to get the band back together and in the mix with our talented Discovery Plus internal teams for our biggest marketing push ever.”
With Discovery execs laser focused on their own linear labels, Manze says the task was to unify the brands under Discovery Plus and organize everyone on the same project, “like Jack Palance in ‘City Slickers.’ That was us.”
“I think he just wanted a couple of old guys, old dogs that he respected, to be honest with him and sometimes hold his hand, sometimes counter,” Manze says of Zaslav. “We have nothing to gain or lose here. It’s pure; this is how we feel. And I think he wanted something like that.”
Manze and Beckman worked with the Discovery Plus team to produce promos and find other ways to push out the message. This was their first experience launching a streamer, but Beckman and Manze say that while some of the tools are different, the basic idea isn’t: You’ve gotta make noise to get attention in a forever crowded landscape.
“There’s so much of what we did during the Must-See TV years that still applies,” Beckman says. “I’ve always felt the best philosophy you can have in this business is showmanship. And how do you make more out of what you have. What hasn’t changed is how you get people to think that there’s something going on here that they have to be a part of.”
Beckman says the team zeroed in on three goals: educating consumers that the Discovery Plus umbrella includes multiple brands, such as TLC, Food Network, HGTV and ID in addition to the namesake channel; framing Discovery Plus’ monthly $5 price tag as a bargain; and touting the streamer’s library of 55,000 episodes.
The campaign highlighted those messages in spots that featured the song “A Million Dreams” from “The Greatest Showman” and used the tagline “Stream What You Love.”
“You’ve got to get people to want the damn thing,” Manze says. “If you analyze who your audience is and what you have and the best way to reach them creatively, and do it in a way that is engaging, that really hasn’t changed much.”
Manze says he believes the spots are resonating, and he points to Discovery’s stock price — which was $30 on launch day and stands at $63 two months later.
“I think going forward the bigger question for all streamers is, as the quarantine is lifted and summer’s here and people get out of the house, how do they continue the momentum and the advantages they had during that time,” he says.
Beckman and Manze have been consulting for various companies in recent years as they inch toward full retirement. But the duo says working on the Discovery Plus launch reignited that Must-See TV appetite for victory. “I think we still have this competitive spirit that anything we can do to help everybody there at Discovery to win, I think that still burns in us,” Beckman says.
Adds Manze: “I wasn’t sure whether I still had any of that, but I don’t know how to do it any other way.”