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Ben Price, Executive Vice President, National Ad Sales, Discovery Communications, has two words for flagship Discovery Channel, American Heroes Channel, rebranded from Military one year ago, and Science Channel, launched in 1996: Brand safe. Honest, authentic and entertaining programming (so long, Megalodon) is the draw for viewers and advertisers alike, says Price plus an over $2 billion dollar investment in content.
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“Rather than a general ballroom presentation for the masses, we’re doing a custom tailored presentation that’s targeted to specific agencies,” Price tells Cynopsis of the company’s Upfront strategy this year. “We’re emphasizing our $2 billion investment in brand safe content across screens and platforms. It gives advertisers the best brand entertainment for product integration, and gives them the ability to appropriate our talent, which will give them the best consumer engagement.”
As it veers away from pseudo-science, led by new network President Rich Ross, Discovery is expanding into new territory. “We could not be more excited about the next evolution of Discovery,” says Price. “As strong as we’ve been with men, we’re widening our lens to include more women and families.” The net had its best quarter ever in 1Q15 in primetime in both total viewers P2+ delivery and P25-54 rating, with the W25-54 demo moving up 5 ranking positions versus 1Q14, to number 12 for the quarter.
Science is also going through a rejuvenation that Price believes resonates with advertisers. “It clearly stays true to its brand, it’s very advertiser-friendly. It’s creative entertainment,” says Price. Under new General Manager Rita Mullin, “The ratings have been very successful the last few months.” In fact, the net just closed its best quarter ever in primetime and total day, with significant increases in key demos. But it’s not just ratings that are soaring. “Their Twitter and Facebook profiles are some of the highest we have in the portfolio,” says Price. “We’ve got social cross-screen opportunities for advertisers.”
As for American Heroes Channel, which closed out its first year as the number 7 fastest-growing ad-supported cable net for total day delivery among P25-54, “The rebrand really broadened us from an advertiser perspective, and also broadened the programming,” says Price. “AHC immerses audiences in impactful stories, and gives viewers historical context and emotion. This year we’re doubling our investment in history programming.”
“With the range of our networks, there really aren’t any categories that we haven’t broken,” says Price. “Automotive is a very important category for us to provide value to, and we’re going to pay special attention to financial services, cell phone and wireless as well as the movie business. But we’re not leaving any category out!”
At Science, “We think with some of the shows we have now and the characters, we can do some great brand integrations and movie tie-ins, in a variety of different genres,” says Price.
Get With the Programs
As Discovery celebrates its 30th anniversary, the net will build on its strengths for auto programming, survival and adventure, while digging deeper into science, technology, engineering and space – but not at the expense of what it does best. “Discovery has such a tradition of groundbreaking, impactful programming that really moves people,” says Price, who expects documentary Racing Extinction, about carbon emissions threatening endangered species, “to do that and more.” Also on the way: stunt Elevation Weekend, a look at the high stakes culture of climbing. “It’s provocative filmmaking and unforgettable characters,” says Price. “Rich Ross has a great understanding of branding so we’ll continue to do these big, blue chip specials.”
Over at Science, “The network has done really well with a multi-generational audience,” notes Price. “We call it Gen Sci. It’s not demographically based, it’s psychologically based – not exclusive, but really very inclusive. Science is dedicated to speaking the truth, from a scientific point of view, and it takes a very broad creative approach. One of the shows that’s really done well is What Could Possibly Go Wrong?. Another that will be fun and is very accessible is Geek Out or Freak Out.”
American Heroes Channel will offer new programs that “feature distinctive voices throughout history, presented in a modern style with true edge,” says Kevin Bennett, Executive Vice President and General Manager. Among the series on deck: American Empire (wt), focused on little-known stories of the Fortune 500 founding fathers, Blood Feuds (wt), about people changing history “one monumental grudge match at a time,” and true stories about desperados in Natural Born Outlaws.
What Are Clients Saying?
“Advertisers really aren’t surprised at the quick and strong trajectory of Science – Rita’s shows are coming in and they’re delivering,” says Price. “What Could Possibly Go Wrong? in particular is a great opportunity for advertisers to get close to that talent and do some really nice branded entertainment.”
“And everybody loves a hero,” points out Price. “American Heroes Channel is telling timeless stories where the hero always rises. The clients appreciate its positive nature, highlighting hope, honor, bravery and commitment. It really is for every demographic.”
“Data has been an important part of recent conversations, and how we can use data to be smarter about the media buys,” says Joe Abruzzese, President of Advertising Sales for Discovery’s U.S. nets. “Every time we get new data and go beyond Nielsen demographics, our audience becomes more and more valuable. We’ve been able to provide custom research, which demonstrates the value of partnering with Discovery.”
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Captain Emily Reidel from Discovery’s Bering Sea Gold and Hakeem Oluseyi, astrophysicist and co-host of Science’s Outrageous Acts of Science, answer the tough questions.
What job would you most like to have, but know you never will?
Reidel: An astrophysicist. The physics behind science is so fascinating. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could actually do it. I’m terrible at math.
Oluseyi: That’s easy. NBA star!
Can’t miss TV show:
Reidel: Bering Sea Gold, of course! Actually, I’m really into House of Cards, specifically the BBC version.
Oluseyi: OK, this is gonna hurt to admit it. But…it’s Dance Moms.
How to handle social media:
Reidel: In front of a wood-burning stove…preferably with some scotch.
Quote of the day
“The big challenge we have as an industry is working with and understanding the data technology. It’s a challenge, but it’s an exciting challenge, to all work together to meet advertiser as well as consumer needs.” Ben Price
It’s all about the brand, according to Peter Olsen, EVP, National Ad Sales at A+E Networks, who says, "Content is important but content in the context of a brand really matters.”
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