Warner Bros. Discovery Unveils Digital Video Ad Product at Upfronts

Dan Meier 17 May, 2023 

Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) today unveiled a digital video offering for advertisers at its Upfront presentation. WBD Stream grants advertisers access to content across the WBD digital portfolio, but is sold separately from advertising on its streaming services, Max and Discovery+.

According to the broadcaster, WBD Stream maximises reach across multiple screens and devices. Advertisers can activate direct and programmatic marketplace (PMP) campaigns on mobile, desktop and CTV, claiming to reach 110 million adults every month.

The available inventory covers WBD’s owned and operated sites and apps, for brands including Food Network, Animal Planet and HGTV. Dynamic ad insertion also unlocks inventory from third-party partnerships, the company said.

In terms of targeting, the product enables advertisers to use their own data, or choose from WBD’s 140 audience segments. At launch, WBD Stream will run across all OTT video, including mobile web and apps (iOS and Android), desktop, web and CTV apps.

“This offering pairs well for partners advertising across our premium streaming services Max and Discovery+ and extends advertisers’ incremental reach to connect with fervent fans who watch their favorite shows, series and sports, again and again,” said Jim Keller, EVP Digital Ad Sales and Advanced Advertising at WBD.

To the Max

The presentation came in the midst of a writers’ strike that made the company scrap planned appearances from its screen talent, as well as ongoing staff cuts at the business – the latest round reportedly affecting 50 employees at the sports division yesterday.

But the company was keen to tout its merged SVOD service ahead of its launch next week, set to expand the content currently available on HBO Max. “Max will be the one service with unparalleled breadth and genre defining content in each category,” said JB Perrette, head of WBD’s streaming business.

The exec promised “one of the lightest ad loads in streaming,” a pledge that seems broadly in line with the status quo on HBO Max that servies four minutes of ads per hour. The company also highighted the growth of its basic ad tier, reporting that HBO Max ad-lite subscriptions grew by 71 percent last year.

Yet the scale of the new offering could remain a concern for advertisers, as Discovery programming is folded into the new combined streaming service – while remaining available on Discovery+ as a standalone service, a strategy that risks cannibalising audiences.

Meanwhile Parrot Analytics has revealed falling demand for HBO Max original programming. “This speaks to Max’s struggles to maintain audience attention and demand outside of the HBO vertical, which is core to the platform’s identity but represents a smaller share of total audience compared to competitors like Netflix and Hulu,” said the report.

All eyes will be on Discovery’s integration into Max,” added Parrot Analytics. “If integrated properly, having Discovery content can create a small bump in subscriber growth, but the real play will come from elongated session time and advertising potential. When it comes to Max, there are knowns and unknowns. HBO’s power as a central player in television that can captivate audiences week after week is known. The potential to scale in a highly competitive market beyond HBO at a global level, which Max needs to do, is still vastly unknown.”

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