Discovery's Karen Grinthal On Leveraging Connections Between Viewers and Networks

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When Discovery, Inc. purchased Scripps, ad sales chief Jon Steinlauf knew he would have to find a way to make selling 17 networks at least a slightly less daunting task.  The solution was to put together the combined company's 12 most prominent brands into three different bundles to take out into the marketplace. The tactic is still fairly new, but it is already bearing fruit, says Executive Vice President Karen Grinthal, who had been at Scripps for two decades before the acquisition, and is leading the bundle comprised of Food Network, TLC, OWN, and Cooking Channel.

Oriana Schwindt:  What binds together these four networks?

Karen Grinthal:  What we first looked at were the emotional connections that these passion brands have with consumers. Food, TLC, OWN and Cooking Channel are inclusive brands that nurture audiences with food, family and empowering stories that celebrate the challenges and triumphs of everyday life.  Food Network fans know and love the talent, and trust that they can be entertained, and also learn valuable skills that enhance their lives.  TLC tells authentic stories of real people in a “no judgement zone” with a message of acceptance and inclusion that is so relevant in the world today.  Cooking Channel explores the world through food and encourages a wonderful mix of curiosity and intelligence and trust.

OWN has attracted the very best talent in scripted production to reach the African-American female audience. We hear from our viewers that they see themselves in these stories and the brand loyalty they feel is reflected in the enormous rating success of the brand.  This is a brand that connects deeply to an underserved consumer with quality programming that is uplifting and entertaining.

Schwindt:  Thus the specialization?

Grinthal:  With a portfolio as large as ours, it’s critical to have a sales staff that’s immersed in the brands.  Because we have so many dimensions, we can create solutions that address client objectives from so many different angles.  We have the ability to work across the entire portfolio or with any combination of brands within.  The other element is our branded portfolio of TV Everywhere streaming GO apps, which allow viewers to binge, catch-up and watch live.  People love to binge on these shows, both in our prime stacks in linear and on the apps, so the apps are becoming essential to our consumers’ interaction with our brands.  We have 45,000 titles available on GO and there is considerable content available in front of the wall.

Schwindt:  Can you talk a little more about the impact of digital?

Grinthal:  We've got 110 million social fans just within these four passion brands. As I said, our GO apps are very important to our consumers and are growing exponentially.

There is advertiser demand for quality and brand safe digital video and as owners of our content, we have access to an enormous library of content. This is a reach extender that connects to younger, affluent viewers. Brands matter to advertisers and marketers, and to us. There are hundreds of episodes of Chopped and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and the apps are giving our fans the opportunity to totally indulge.

We create custom short-form, particularly in the Food category that works well in the social platforms, with the unique advantage of having the linear platform to augment the custom message with great reach and impact. For Food Network, as experts, we create short-form video with hands and pans recipes and original content, and with TLC, fans are obsessed with hit shows, like 90 Day Fiancé and Dr. Pimple Popper.

Schwindt:  What are some stand-out shows that are coming up?

Grinthal:  A great scripted drama coming to OWN in 3Q 2019 is David Makes Man.  It’s Tarell Alvin McCraney’s follow-up to Moonlight, his first TV series, produced with Michael B. Jordan, and it is this richly layered, deeply personal coming-of-age story.  It stars Phylicia Rashad and centers on a 14-year-old prodigy from the projects who is haunted by the death of his closest friend and relied on by his hardworking mother to find a way out of poverty. This is scheduled as a 10-part series premiering in July 2019.

Will Packer has his first unscripted show, Ready to Love, a dating show from the male perspective, on the air now and also has a new drama series co-produced with Lionsgate, Ambitions, about four women who are making their way toward the top.

On Food Network, we are taking advantage of the synergy between top talent across our lifestyle brands and will be launching an epic baking battle in 2019, Buddy vs Duff.

Schwindt:  You've been in the industry for a while.  What are some of the biggest trends you've seen?

Grinthal:  Across the spectrum of business, all categories of clients are coping with disruption and looking for solutions to ensure that they are spending their marketing and advertising dollars wisely.  It’s our job to stay ahead of the curve and make sure we understand how our consumers want to receive our content and also that we have the data and research tools to prove the performance of our brands, which is why many clients have taken advantage of our Engage platform.

We're seeing consumers taking charge of how they watch, and long-form digital video is growing exponentially.  The content keeps getting better and the competition is always fierce, but content, context and brand are a powerful combination for consumers and for advertisers.  There is always more to learn and that keeps it fascinating.

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