Discovery Communications soon will be offering marketers a unique proposition: take an ad on one of the Discovery digital channels and, as part of the deal, get an ad in The New York Times.
At least that’s the kind of idea that’s being discussed between Discovery and The New York Times Co., as part of the Times’ recent $100 million investment in the Discovery Civilization network.
Talks are now under way that will likely lead to the renaming and rebranding of Discovery Civilization with a name that is expected to incorporate some aspect of the Times’ name and distinctive logo.
While the Times did not participate with Discovery in this year’s recently concluded upfront, that too is expected to change in the near future. “Our strategy and our plan is that we will be able to go to advertisers and offer integrated packages that include The New York Times and … what is currently called Civilization,” said Bill McGowan, executive VP, general manager, U.S. ad sales and global integrated partnerships, Discovery Communications.
“With respect to Discovery Civilization channel, we do hope to cross-sell advertising, and to do so through a coordinated effort between our respective advertising departments,” a Times spokesman said.
Despite a widespread industry assumption that Discovery was one of the companies, along with USA Networks and Lifetime Television, that traded cost-per-thousand decreases for increased share in the upfront, Mr. McGowan said the Discovery networks averaged single-digit CPM increases, along with a 30 percent increase in year-over-year dollar volume, in the company’s most successful upfront ever.
In terms of categories, automotive was up 30 percent, computer hardware and software was up almost 40 percent, retail/home improvement was up almost 50 percent and financial services was up a full 100 percent, Mr. McGowan said.
Unlike other multinetwork media companies, where cross-platform deals represent at best a small fraction of total upfront business, what Discovery calls “integrated portfolio” sales accounted for 75 percent of all upfront agreements, Mr. McGowan said. Unlike Viacom and AOL Time Warner, “We have a highly compatible portfolio of networks,” he said.
This year, adding to its upfront take Discovery also broadened its appeal beyond its traditional male audience base to include women. Beauty products company Revlon, which has done only minimal business with Discovery in the past, was one advertiser that responded to the new pitch, making a multimillion-dollar, multinetwork deal in the upfront. That deal encompassed programming on The Learning Channel, Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel and Discovery Channel itself and included, among others, “Berman & Berman,” the women’s sexuality talk show from Weller/Grossman Productions.
The just-concluded upfront, in which broadcast and cable took in an estimated $8 billion and $4.8 billion, respectively, was a return to the record levels of 2000, after the advertising collapse of 2001, and to “normal” growth rates, said Mr. McGowan, who is known in the industry for his annual pre-upfront market predictions.
His initial forecast for the 2003-04 upfront calls for the overall marketplace to be up approximately 5 percent to a record of $13.4 billion, with broadcast up around 3 percent to $8.2 billion and cable up around 8 percent to $5.2 billion.
The New York Times Co. also has a five-year programming output agreement with DCI under which Discovery will purchase programming from its New York Times Television unit. One early product of that agreement will be a quarterly series of world-affairs specials on the Discovery Channel. Those specials, set to begin in 2003, will be hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning Times columnist Thomas Friedman.