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Discovery to move its upfront presentation closer to Big 4 broadcast networks

Programmer Discovery Inc. is signaling its expanded reach to advertisers by planning its 2020 upfront sales presentation in New York during the same week as the Big Four broadcast networks ABC (US), CBS (US), FOX (US) and NBC (US).

Mid-May is traditionally when the biggest U.S. programmers plan glitzy presentations to debut their upcoming fall TV slates to prospective ad buyers. Discovery said it will hold its presentation May 12, 2020, at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall. The 2020 presentation will be Discovery's final stop in a multi-city tour to promote its new TV lineup.

Discovery Inc. broadened its stable of lifestyle networks with the acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. in 2018. In its first upfront season following the deal closing, Discovery garnered about $2.5 billion in sales volume. Historically, upfront ad deals begin to be written following the Memorial Day weekend and are largely completed by early July.

Discovery is not the only U.S. media company to make its upfront pitch alongside broadcast's biggest networks. AT&T Inc.'s advanced advertising unit Xandr held its 2019 presentation on May 14 in a slot previously held by sports programmer ESPN (US). Parent Walt Disney Co. integrated ESPN into a more expansive presentation later that day, designed to showcase Disney's expanded portfolio in the wake of its acquisition of myriad properties from 21st Century Fox Inc.

Discovery Chief U.S. Ad Sales Officer Jon Steinlauf said in a recent interview that the company's pricing increases were at or near the top of the industry. Discovery also may seek to sell more inventory during this year's market to capitalize on what it expects to be strong marketplace demand.

"In the past year, postmerger, 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," Steinlauf said in a May 28 press release announcing the 2020 upfront date. "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."

A spokesman for Xandr said AT&T had not yet decided on the format for next year's upfront presentations or whether the ad group would be incorporated with AT&T's broader WarnerMedia event. WarnerMedia's 2019 presentation was also held the same week as the major broadcast networks.