TV Upfront

Discovery Brings Thrillist, NowThis Into the Upfronts

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'Cash Cab' returns for another season on Discovery.
'Cash Cab' returns for another season on Discovery. Credit: Discovery Communications

There's surely an effort being made by Discovery Communications to be perceived as a more innovative, and perhaps cooler brand, during the upfronts. To this end, it will be parading Group Nine Media, the digital media venture it invested $100 million in late last year, out to agency executives and marketers over the coming weeks.

"We are looking to pivot from a company of channels to a company of IP," said Discovery CEO David Zaslav during a press event outlining the company's upfront initiatives on Tuesday morning.

Discovery has been working to change the culture of the company, and the investment in Group Nine -- which combines Thrillist, a food, drink and travel brand; animal video site The Dodo; NowThis, a video news creator; and Seeker, a compilation of its own digital content -- was a step in doing this, Mr. Zaslav said.

Group Nine will work with clients to repurpose linear TV spots to make them more appropriate and relevant to social media and allow for more custom and branded content that utilizes Discovery's franchises to enhance linear buys, said Paul Guyardo, chief commercial officer, Discovery.

"It wasn't that long ago that when you talked about your product that product was programming," said Ben Price, president-national advertising sales, Discovery.

But Discovery will spend more time this year discussing ad products, measurement and analytics and how advertisers can utilize their IP to create custom solutions, he said.

"Media agencies are under more pressure than ever to deliver tangible results for clients," Mr. Guyardo said, adding that marketers are asking for more creative solutions and if the audiences they are reaching are really buying their products.

With Discovery digital, Mr. Guyardo said there is flexibility in ad formats, allowing advertisers to buy shows, seasons, a series or take over the entire app.

Aside from Group Nine, Discovery executives touted virtual reality initiatives, its relationship with Amazon for several content apps, and its Snapchat partnership to create short-form content.

While there may be a bigger focus on data and innovation this year, Discovery execs still spent more than half of the over two-hour presentation running through its new shows. These include the return of "Cash Cab" on Discovery; a documentary on NASA as it celebrates its 60th anniversary; and new scripted series "Manhunt: Unabomber." "The Big Bang Theory" star Johnny Galecki will host a practical joke show on Science Channel and Animal Planet will help some overweight animals in "My Fat Pet."

TLC will broadcast real life-altering moments in a live special, "This is Life Live." In the four-night event, viewers will watch a deaf parent hearing their child for the first time and a father being reunited with a long lost family member as it happens. The network is also bringing back "Trading Spaces." And Investigation Discovery is partnering with author James Patterson for nonfiction books and a series.

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