Discovery is reorganizing its ad sales team following its merger with Scripps Networks, appointing three sales leads who will each be responsible for selling a group of channels.
The company has identified 12 networks on which it will focus its ad sales efforts: HGTV, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, DIY Network, Food Network, TLC, OWN, Cooking Channel, Travel, Science and Motor Trends Network.
Discovery's five other channels—Destination America, American Heroes, Discovery Family, Discovery Life and Great American Country—are not being prioritized within the sales organization.
The so-called priority networks are being grouped into three bundles of four networks each, with each bundle being anchored by a leading channel, says Jon Steinlauf, the former Scripps ad sales leader who is now chief U.S. advertising sales officer at Discovery.
HGTV will anchor a bundle that includes ID, Animal Planet and DIY and will be led by Greg Regis, a 15-year veteran of Scripps Networks who had become senior VP of advertising sales and media partnerships at Discovery. Regis becomes executive VP of national ad sales.
Steinlauf says HGTV and ID are the No. 1 and No. 2 cable channels for women 25 to 54, while there is a cross-over between the home ownership focus of HGTV and DIY and pet ownership with Animal Planet.
Food Network will lead a bundle including TLC, OWN and Cooking Channel, which was designed to appeal to ad categories like consumer packaged goods that are looking for a broader, more diverse audience, Steinlauf says. That bundle will be led by Karen Grinthal, who has been senior VP of advertising sales for Food Network and Cooking Channel. She becomes executive VP of national advertising sales.
And Discovery will anchor a bundle that's geared toward a more male-centric audience and includes Travel, Science and Motor Trend Network (formerly called Velocity). Scott Kohn, group senior VP of regional advertising sales, will oversee this bundle and become exec VP of national ad sales.
The reorg will mean ad agencies will speak with three different sales reps—a specialist from each of the three bundles. That's down from six—three for the legacy Discovery business and three for Scripps.
Amid the sales reorg, the company is laying off more than 20 staffers in its ad sales division this week, according to people familiar with the situation.
Steinlauf declined to comment on the layoffs. Discovery declined to say how many people it employs in ad sales.
The moves come as the TV industry finishes its annual upfront negotiations with ad buyers, when networks look to secure ad commitments for the following season.
It was a challenge to get deals done with Discovery during this year's ad haggle, according to several media buyers. In its first upfront as a combined company, Steinlauf went out seeking meaningful price increases for networks like Investigation Discovery. At Scripps, Steinlauf was able to command higher pricing for networks like Food Network and HGTV, thanks to their appeal to endemic advertisers that are attracted to categories like food and home improvement. According to buyers, Steinlauf tried to get similar premiums at some Discovery networks, which didn't sit well in the marketplace.
In April, Ben Price, who had previously overseen all of Discovery Communications ad sales prior to the merger, said he would leave the company at the end of the upfront season. He was at the company for 28 years.
As staffers received pink slips this week, Discovery CEO David Zaslav signed a new contract that will keep him at the company through 2023. That contract extension also seems to come with a pay boost, with Zaslav's target bonus increasing to $22 million next year, up from $9 million, according to NBC News, though he isn't guaranteed the bonus amount. Zaslav's base salary of $3 million remains unchanged.