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Discovery completes its upfront, scoring pricing gains via 'Premiere' strategy

Discovery Inc. has finished its upfront, becoming the last major programmer to complete the sales process.

Sources familiar with the negotiations indicate that the nonfiction and lifestyle programmer reached the planned sales levels for its linear, digital, streaming and advanced advertising offerings.

Discovery declined to comment on its upfront sales efforts.

Perhaps one of the reasons Discovery lagged other top programmers in finishing its upfront negotiations was its push to bridge the gap between broadcast and cable ad pricing. Discovery President and CEO David Zaslav said at an investor conference last month that the company was still pursuing pricing gains. In recent years, the programmer has been selling the first commercial unit in ad breaks in top shows across its portfolio as part of its Discovery Premiere strategy.

To that end, the sources indicate that over 200 clients secured Discovery Premiere deals during this selling season.

Advertising analysis and forecasting company Media Dynamics estimates that CPM pricing against adults 18 and older for the traditional prime-time upfront for the 2021-22 TV season grew 19.4% for broadcast networks to an average of $45.03, up from $37.71 for the 2020-21 upfront. As to national cable, Media Dynamics places the average CPM increase at 9.7% to $21.83 for the 2021-22 campaign, versus $19.90 in the prior season's negotiating period.

During the upfront, content providers sell linear and digital schedules to media agencies and their clients ahead of the upcoming TV season. In scatter, inventory is secured much closer to a program's air date, often at prices higher than negotiated during the upfront.

Demand was also robust across aggregate streaming service Discovery+ and Discovery GO, the company's fast-growing TV Everywhere offering, as well as video-on-demand, online and social platforms.

There were further pricing and volume gains on the advanced advertising front, with significant business written under the company's Engage banner via deals anchored by targeting and addressable solutions, according to the sources.