Jon Steinlauf will oversee U.S. ad sales for the new Warner Bros. Discovery, a key position at the company that is, like many other senior operating roles, going to an executive who has familiarity working with company chief David Zaslav.
In Steinlauf, Discovery has picked an executive with an academic demeanor and a reputation for coming up with innovative ways to sell and package inventory that might not occur to some of the industry’s flashier players. Under Steinlauf, for example, Discovery has offered advertisers a “”premiere” package of 30 of the company’s best-known series, guaranteeing first position in ad breaks in debut episodes of the shows and better reach among women between 25 and 54 than some programs that air on broadcast rivals. The Discovery series have included everything from “Deadliest Catch” to “Shark Week” and “90 Day Fiancé.”
He will require those talents in months to come. Traditional media companies — even those as large as Warner Bros. Discovery — are facing new demands from advertisers who are moving dollars from linear TV to streaming video, a move that is changing the nature of TV ad sales. Advertisers want to use new kinds of data to align their commercials with narrower groups of consumers, such as people likely to buy cars or see a movie debut. That has been harder to accomplish on traditional TV, but easier to navigate with streaming services, which are delivered by interactive, broadband technology.
Discovery, which is expected to gain approval for the merger at a shareholders meeting Friday, did not offer any details about how the company might approach the industry’s annual “upfront” sales market in May, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their advertising inventory for their next cycle of programming. Discovery and WarnerMedia had both been pursuing separate meetings with advertisers, and there have been signs the new owners might like to present the company’s broader portfolio — which will encompass everything from Food Network to ad-supported versions of HBO Max — all at once.
WarnerMedia’s top ad sales executive is expected to move on. JP Colaco joined WarnerMedia to head up ad-sales in the fall of 2020, and has been a longtime colleague of Jason Kilar, the company’s departing CEO. During a short term, he was able to launch the ad-supported tier of HBO Max, which has become an attractive venue to several big media-buying agencies, and brokered several large pacts involving WarnerMedia intellectual property. He is expected to leave WarnerMedia after a transition period. Katrina Cukaj, a longtime WarnerMedia sales executive who has deep knowledge of CNN and other top venues, was named in 2021 to take a senior role in advertising sales and partnerships. Her expertise might be valuable to the combined company. She is expected to stay under Steinlauf for the time being, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Steinlauf has been Discovery’s U.S. ad sales chief since winning the job after Discovery acquired Scripps Networks in 2018. He faced a similar situation then, having to mobilize a combined sales force with just weeks to go before the start of the industry’s most critical sales period. He had been Scripps’ president of advertising sales, and before that, a vice president of ad sales at Warner’s TBS and TNT networks and a director of ad sales at ESPN. He began his career as a media buyer at Young & Rubicam.
“Together, we will introduce unparalleled ad-supported streaming opportunities to our clients,” Steinlauf said in a statement. ” I’ve spent the last 30 years of my career at Turner, Scripps and Discovery and have the utmost respect for the Warner brands. It is incredible to me that everything will come full circle at Warner Bros. Discovery.”
Steinlauf will report to Bruce Campbell, who is slated to be named chief revenue and strategy officer for the new combined company.