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Discovery, Poised for Merger, Touts Programming Focused on Real Life

David Zaslav
Courtesy of Discovery Communication

Discovery brought a vision to advertisers this year that it will be hard to duplicate in sessions to come.

The owner of the TLC, Food Network and HGTV cable outlets spent Wednesday morning explaining how its networks, focused largely on reality and documentary programming, could stand through even conditions spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Programming and advertising executives nodded to new “at home” formats devised for popular hosts like Guy Fieri and The Pioneer Woman, while articulating new shows and series that will debut in weeks to come. Discovery made the presentation as part of the industry’s annual “upfront,” when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the next programming cycle.

The challenge: Discovery is likely to look very different in months to come. On Monday, Discovery and AT&T announced that WarnerMedia and Discovery would merge in a transaction slated to be completed by mid-2022. When that happens, Discovery will have to tout not only reality series, but also a great many pieces of scripted content as well.

In the meantime, however, Discovery leaned in to the stuff for which it is best known. Oprah Winfrey made an appearance to tout her OWN cable network and Chip and Joanna Gaines discussed the coming launch of Magnolia, Kathleen Finch, the head of the company’s lifestyle networks, Nancy Daniels, who oversees Discovery Channel and factual programming; and Lisa Holme, who runs content and commercial strategy, all offered insight on properties ranging from Food Network to Discovery Plus.

The company took time to push new offers to advertisers. Jon Steinalauf, who is Discovery’s chief U.S. ad sales officer, said Discovery would offer incentives to advertisers who opted for audience guarantees that took into account a greater range of audience impressions, suggesting such categories as “18 plus” or “25 plus” rather than the usual “18 to 49” or “25 to 54” demos that have become the industry standard. More networks are prodding ad clients to test similar ideas as younger viewers migrate rapidly to streaming-video venues.