TV & Streaming

Warner Bros. Discovery touts its ‘united front’ to advertisers

During its annual upfront, the media giant pitched big franchises and cross-portfolio collabs.
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Mike Coppola/Getty Images

· 5 min read

Two years after the megamerger between WarnerMedia and Discovery, Inc., Warner Bros. Discovery executives repeated the phrase “one WBD” and spent much of the company’s upfront presentation this week emphasizing the power of having Bobby Flay under the same umbrella as Carrie Bradshaw, Barbie, and Batman.

The power, it seems, is synergy: sweet, corporate synergy. The media giant is operating as a “united front,” Bruce Campbell, WBD’s chief revenue and strategy officer, told the audience at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.

“As a result, our movie and TV teams collaborate,” he said. “Our franchise decisions are made globally, always with our partners in mind. And our advertisers can now have easy access to the entire WBD universe to drive value with single points of contact.”

Examples of such synergies were quickly unveiled. This fall, Max will premiere an original drama series based on the Warner Bros. film Dune called Dune: Prophecy. Food Network will debut Harry Potter:Wizards of Baking, a Harry Potter-themed unscripted baking competition show, because you can always squeeze content from the stone of some solid intellectual property.

  • Brand integrations touted during the presentation included a Sherwin-Williams paint palette “inspired by the beauty of the ocean” for Shark Week (Ravishing Coral! Sand Dollar!) as well as State Farm’s sponsorship of the NBA All-Star Game.

In addition to Dune: Prophecy, Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and Max content, declared that the next 18 months of HBO’s programming would be one of the “strongest slates in our history,” highlighting new seasons of The Last of Us, House of the Dragon, and the Sex and the City spinoff series And Just Like That…, with Sarah Jessica Parker appearing onstage for a brief interview. And Bloys announced that Hard Knocks: Offseason, a new iteration of sports documentary series Hard Knocks, will kick off this summer with a five-part series about the New York Giants’ offseason.

WBD’s streaming services, which include Max and Discovery+, had a combined 100 million subscribers at the end of Q1.

Jon Steinlauf, Warner Bros. Discovery’s chief of US ad sales, got a perhaps inadvertent laugh when he said, “Our industry is in a constant state of change.” Nevertheless, he unveiled a slew of ad updates, including shoppable inventory and contextual tools, in addition to sharing further details about its previously announced first-party targeting tool, Data Driven Video, which can find audiences across WBD’s expansive video portfolio using its data platform Olli.

Out with a Bang: Kathleen Finch, CEO and chairman of US networks, highlighted TBS’s reruns of The Big Bang Theory, which aired its final episode in 2019 and was the No. 1 acquired series this year due to its “passionate fanbase,” she said.

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Good line: “Oh, wait. My phone’s actually buzzing, too. It must be one of the millions and millions and millions and millions of Hacks fans,” Hacks star Hannah Einbinder joked onstage. “They’re tweeting. They’re texting. They’re on Venmo. They’re on Google Docs. I’m hearing they’re just sort of adding to the same Google Doc. They’re going, ‘I love it!’ They’re going, ‘I love it, too!’ And they’re on the phone, so it’s probably them.”

Movie magic: Remember last summer, when the hot-pink hue of Barbie was nearly unavoidable? Dana Nussbaum, EVP of worldwide marketing at Warner Bros. Pictures, said the studio is open for business for upcoming summer releases in 2024 and 2025, including Beetlejuice Beetlejuice, Minecraft, and a reboot of Superman.

News news: Naturally, the CNN portion of the presentation was used to break a little news, with Mark Thompson, chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide, announcing that the channel would host the first presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on June 27.

He also said CNN would roll out “new branded verticals…on TV, our apps, and other platforms” across topics like climate and weather, business and tech, and health and wellness. “Politics matters, especially in this election year, but we don’t believe news is just politics,” he said.

Ball is life: Near the end of the presentation, Luis Silberwasser, chairman and CEO of TNT Sports, said that “I want to mention a topic that is on everyone’s mind, and that’s the NBA.” That goes beyond the fact that Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, stars of TNT’s Emmy-winning Inside The NBA studio show, were in attendance on Wednesday; recent reports suggest that WBD-owned TNT could potentially lose the rights to broadcast NBA games beginning with the 2025-26 season if it ends up being outbid by NBCUniversal.

While Silberwasser did not share news about any pending deals, he said that “we have enjoyed a successful partnership with the NBA for 40 years, and we look forward to another season, and reaching an agreement that makes sense for all the parties.”And FWIW, NBA clips were included in most of the presentation’s sizzle reels.

And, of course, there is the forthcoming joint sports-streaming service from Fox, Disney, and WBD. The streamer will be “aimed at servicing hard-core sports fans, and it is designed to offer more choices to a segment of viewers who currently aren't being served,” Silberwasser said. The Disney+, Hulu, and Max bundle, though, went unmentioned.

Parting words: “Ladies and gentleman, that is our upfront,” Conan O’Brien said, wrapping up the morning. “We had to be here. You chose to be here. That's on you.”

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