TV Upfront

Discovery aims to position its top series as replacement for broadcast prime time

By Published on .

Credit: Discovery Network

Cable TV networks for years have been trying to position themselves to advertisers as a replacement for pricier series on broadcast prime time. For many, it's been a hard sell. But Discovery is certainly on a mission to drive up ad prices for its channels as it goes into the annual upfront ad haggle -- when networks look to secure a bulk of their ad commitments for the next season -- for the first time since it's acquisition of Scripps.

To this end, Discovery is packaging the premiere episodes of its top 30 shows across Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, OWN, Investigation Discovery, Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel into a standalone offering, says Jon Steinlauf, chief U.S. advertising sales officer for Discovery.

That means advertisers looking to get into some of Discovery's most popular shows like "Deadliest Catch," "Property Brothers" on HGTV and "Food Network Star" will have to pay prices that are closer to broadcast prime time.

With many broadcast series having slipped under a 1.0 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic, Discovery is looking to position itself as a replacement to network prime time. More than half of the shows that aired during the 2017-2018 broadcast season did under a 1.0 rating.

This package, which is being called "Discovery Premiere," will include only the premiere episodes of Discovery's highest-rated shows like OWN's "Queen Sugar" and "Gold Rush" on the flagship channel. In a typical buy, an advertiser may get a commercial in the premiere episode of Food Network's "Iron Chef Gauntlet" due to rotation. But the only way a marketer can guarantee getting commercial time in the premiere episodes of these 30 shows is by purchasing them separately from their broader buy with Discovery.

The package will also include viewership on Discovery's suite of digital apps. "Shark Week," Discovery's biggest event, will also be included.

The "Discovery Premiere" package will be priced at a midway point between broadcast prime and cable prime, Steinlauf says.

"Discovery produces more than 8,000 hours of real-life entertainment a year and our research shows that premiere episodes of our hit shows deliver ratings 90% higher on average than the prime averages on their channels," Steinlauf says in a statement.

Steinlauf, who led Scripps' ad sales before the merger, is bent on driving up prices for the original Discovery channels, in particular. According to several media buyers, Steinlauf believes there needs to be a pricing correction on channels like Investigation Discovery and the flagship network.

Turner attempted something similar a decade ago, when it looked to sell some of its popular shows like the TNT drama "The Closer" as a "broadcast replacement," seeking high price increases in the market. But Turner had some difficulties gaining traction in the market.

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