Discovery Elbows Its Way Into Broadcast Upfronts, Setting May 2020 Date

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Discovery is elbowing its way into the week traditionally focused on broadcast upfront presentations, setting May 12, 2020 as the date for its own upfront breakfast event in New York.

The Tuesday morning event will occupy a slot that was long held by ESPN until Disney this year added the sports network to its overall pitch, along with ABC, Freeform, FX and National Geographic. Univision has also historically had a Tuesday event in the late morning.

The company, which acquired Food Network and HGTV parent Scripps Networks Interactive in 2018, is returning to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall. It had previously put on elaborate pitches to media buyers in Rose Hall, but in recent years had downshifted along with other cable programmers to focus more on smaller-scale client outreach.

The upfront period — where about one-fifth of television’s $75 billion annual advertising spending is committed in advance of the upcoming season — has ebbed and flowed in recent years in terms of showmanship. CBS, NBC, Fox and Disney have maintained steady commitments to traditional razzle-dazzle, bringing A-list talent and musical acts to their longtime bases at landmarks Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Beacon Theater. At the same time, the string of cable upfronts that once stretched from February to May has diminished. Viacom, for example, scrubbed the upfronts it once staged for MTV, Nickelodeon and other networks, favoring more intimate client dinners.

Discovery’s announcement followed the company’s completion of a six-city upfront tour, which ended April 24 in LA. It plans stops in multiple cities again in 2020, but said those details will be announced at a later date.

“In the past year, post-merger, Discovery has significantly increased our scale, reach and leadership, putting us on par with the broadcasters in terms of the scope and significance of what we can deliver to advertisers,” Chief U.S. Ad Sales Officer Jon Steinlauf said. “With the top networks for women, the No. 1 non-sports cable network for men, nearly half of the top series on cable and the most engaged viewers in cable, now is the time for Discovery to showcase to current and prospective advertisers the impact that our real-life portfolio of iconic brands can have on their businesses.”

The company has been offering new options to ad buyers such as Premiere, which gives advertisers “A” positions in first-run episodes of Discovery networks’ top-rated shows. Another ad tool called Engage enhances targeting capabilities.

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