Discovery Inc.’s return to the world of New York Upfront events -- now as the combined Discovery Communications and Scripps Networks Interactive -- had the vibe of a Broadway opening night. It was easy to understand why, given this was the company’s first public display since the SNI merger was completed last month.
Venue: Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, on the corner of Broadway and W. 65th St. In a bow to SNI, which used this place as their New York Upfront locale the last few years, various Discovery network logos were displayed on the outside glass walls facing Broadway, along with the declaration “Meet the New Discovery.” In another touch, spaces around the front lobby were set aside for individual networks to handle talent meet-and-greets and photo opportunities after the presentation. Inside the hall, Discovery logos were displayed on either side of the stage and on the back screen, while every attendee found a shark pillow on their seat, in honor of Shark Week’s 30th anniversary this July. Cocktails and appetizers were served pre-show, followed by a post-show round of food and drink. Grade: 4.5 Jacks
Presentation: With quick precision, Discovery President and Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav and Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer Jon Steinlauf (coming over from SNI) delivered the key talking points.
First, with channels like HGTV and Food Network on board, “We’re king of the hill in real-life unscripted TV that sponsors can trust,” Zaslav noted. “We’re a different kind of media company. We don’t have viewers; we have fans. There’s no better, safer, quality environment to place your ads on.”
Second, if advertisers want viewers who see their messages live, the moment they run, “You’ll hit the jackpot here,” Steinlauf added. “Ninety-seven percent of Discovery-placed ads are watched live. Our audiences not only expect to see commercials, they welcome them because they are seen as resources (to their lives), not as interruptions.”
Segments devoted to individual networks were just as rapid-fire, summarizing returning and new series with a combo of short speeches and videos. Remember when Discovery’s previous efforts were marathons, running more than two hours? Not this time. The running time was 1 ½ hours. Grade: 4.5 Jacks for the overall approach; 5 Jacks for the videos.
News: Velocity, Discovery’s service about the auto world, will become Motor Trend Network this fall, incorporating more content from Motor Trend’s magazine lineup and digital service. Prior to that conversion, the channel will offer live flag-to-flag coverage June 16-17 of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. All told, Discovery will present more than 8,000 hours of new programming during the 2018-19 season, including Valley of the Kings and Undercover Billionaire (Discovery Channel), Home Suite Home (HGTV), Our Wild Life (TLC), In Pursuit with John Walsh (ID: Investigation Discovery), The Irwins (Animal Planet), The Innovators (Science Channel) and Hunting Evidence (Travel Channel). Destination America, American Heroes Channel and Great American Country were absent from this news flow, as was OWN (though Oprah Winfrey did appear in an opening video introducing Zaslav). Grade: 4.5 Jacks
Hosts: Zaslav and Steinlauf were solid delivering their remarks, along with Chief Lifestyle Brands Officer Kathleen Finch, Discovery/Factual Chief Brand Officer Nancy Daniels, Animal Planet Global President Susanna Dinnage and Group President for ID, Destination America and American Heroes Channel Henry Schleiff. Zaslav gets extra credit for coming on stage with a blue sweater, white pants and no jacket, and making his casual fashion statement work (see front row in photo at top). Grade: 4 Jacks
Star Time: Taking cues from both broadcast network Upfronts and Broadway curtain calls, more than 70 personalities from Discovery and SNI (grouped by network) came on stage at the end, clapping to “This Is Me,” the Oscar-nominated song from The Greatest Showman. It only took a few seconds for many audience members to clap along. Everyone on stage was in high spirits. The crowd responded with a rousing ovation. What a moment. Grade: 5 Jacks
Cuisine: Outstanding selection, one of the best at any Upfront so far this season. Best eats: shrimp wontons with sweet lemongrass chili sauce, Korean beef empanadas with chipotle dressing, veggie sticks with orange lentil dip, mojo marinated pork sandwiches and sweet potato fries. Worst eats: steak slices that looked too rare in the middle. Grade: 4.5 Jacks (Note: Cuisine ratings do not figure in the overall Jacks score.)
Data Insight: Discovery’s collection of channels reaches 20 percent of all adults 25-54 watching cable throughout the day, and five networks maintain a 20 percent share of female viewers. A new Nielsen study on environment and advertiser impact concluded that Discovery’s services have a 96 percent advantage as an engaging viewer landscape over sports, news and general entertainment content. Grade: 3.5 Jacks
Innovative Opportunity: Multi-platform ad campaigns involving linear, digital and print when Velocity turns into Motor Trend Network. Grade: 3 Jacks
Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks A powerful event in many respects, from a well-utilized venue to well-timed and paced content. The video montages also contributed to the overall appeal.
Our Jacks rating system: 5 Jacks – Excellent, 4 Jacks -- Very Good, 3 Jacks --- Good, 2 Jacks – Fair, 1 Jack – Poor, 0 Jacks -- Don’t go there
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