You briefly touched on cable, and I’m wondering about the value of long-tail cable networks, for example, Science, to advertisers? How are you thinking about ad sales for those channels?
Many of the major streaming services are owned by companies that also own major TV networks, so there is an interdependency in the negotiation between Hulu and ABC, or Peacock and NBC, or HBO and Discovery. There's a negotiation going on for linear TV, there's a negotiation going on for what I would call non-linear TV. And it's not just streaming, but, in our case, it's Bleacher Report and CNN.com, it's video on demand, it's authenticated apps.
We have a lot of specialized brands, verticals, that are important to advertisers. They may not have 3 million people watching them at night, they may only have 200,000 or 300,000 people watching them, but they contribute to reach, they contribute to sponsorship platforms. It helps to have all of these great brands because advertisers prefer brands to just commoditized inventory. And a good example of a great new brand in our portfolio is Magnolia.
Typically, we in ad sales say "invest where there either is a good brand, or where we can build a good brand." Because I think brands are hard to build in media, especially in TV these days. So when you have a good brand, it's worth trying to find growth wherever you can find it.
How is Warner Bros. Discovery thinking about its ad strategy for a future unified mega-service? There are so many different flavors of brands, with unscripted brands that have huge followings, alongside premium scripted stuff like “Euphoria.” From an ad sales perspective, how do you think about selling those properties under a single platform?
A really, really good question that we're thinking about now in the ad sales upfront, is it one brand or two? In the consumer world, other members of our leadership team will decide how to best market the combinations to consumers and how to bundle them and price them, and then what's ad-free? What's ad-light? But speaking specifically about ad sales for the ’22-’23 upfront, we believe going out there with a separate offer for Discovery+ and a separate offer for HBO Max will serve our purposes and the marketplace’s purpose better.
If you're an advertising executive and you follow our company, where we have been positioned is as the leaders in lifestyle: HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, Oprah, Magnolia, Cooking Channel, TLC, Discovery Channel, MotorTrend. So all of these are pretty clean verticals without a lot of natural predators. The endemic advertisers in those categories will gravitate more of their spending towards Discovery+. We don't sell brand-specific Discovery+, for the most part. We're mostly selling an audience segment, and a lot of it is being done through addressability and programmatic tools.
HBO Max is really built around scripted drama, and some comedy, like the Lakers series or "Succession." Now, not every one of these shows is available with ads—we're still working through what has ads and what doesn't have ads. That will sort itself out. But I believe that the advertisers who want to be on HBO Max may be different than the advertisers who want to be on Discovery+. Some will want both, but some will only want one or the other.
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You've been through mergers before. How might your approach to advertising be similar or different this time around?
Having been through one of these four years ago is helping me because I remember—I'm having a lot of flashbacks. Having been home for two years with the pandemic, and then to come back, it feels like it's still all one merger [laughs].
The part of it that I think is most exciting is going into a conference room, having four people in the room from each company, and let's just riff. Let's just talk about ideas. How do we get better at what we do? We always want to be better, we will always want to reach our potential. And what you find when you have four smart people that are legacy Warner, and four smart people who are legacy Discovery—we've competed fiercely against each other for most of our careers—now we're sitting in a room together on the same team. What are your secret formulas? How do you do this? How do we do that? No one's better at everything. It's sharing best practices and finding ways to learn from each other.
The second thing is that the knowledge you gain when you merge with a major competitor—now for me, this is the second time in four years—you learn so much more about the market, what advertisers are doing, pricing, packaging, mixes, just strategy. You become so much smarter. I've had two chances to see a major competitor's entire game plan.
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