WarnerMedia Sticks to Upfront Script Despite Looming Discovery Tie-Up

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WarnerMedia tried to put its best foot forward on Wednesday by focusing on the future of its own media assets, rather than questions about its looming spinoff from AT&T and merger with Discovery.

Executives at the AT&T-owned media conglomerate put a spotlight on the company’s broad array of media outlets and talent during an upfront presentation to advertisers. The showcase, largely pre-taped, featured Leslie Odom Jr. in a musical showcase that took viewers on a tour across WarnerMedia, relying on cameos from Samantha Bee, Robin Thede, Lisa Ling, Anderson Cooper and W. Kamau Bell, among others.

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The company also nodded to new initiatives, with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar vowing to offer an “elegant” experience for advertisers with an ad-supported version of the company’s streaming-video hub, HBO Max. Other efforts will put HBO Max programming on cable networks TBS and TNT with limited commercial interruption in a format the company is calling “Front Row.” Beginning this summer, TBS and TNT will broadcast original HBO Max shows such as “Love Life,” “Titans” and “Class Action Park.” The first season of “The Flight Attendant” will be available to watch on TBS in 2022 ahead of its second season premiere on HBO Max. Some TNT series, such as “Rich People Problems,” Cody and Brandi Rhodes’ “Rhodes to the Top,” “Claws” and “Snowpiercer,” will also be offered to consumers with limited commercials.

WarnerMedia placed emphasis on its sports properties, particularly its NBA rights and its new contract with the NHL. Turner Sports has sold out its available commercial inventory for its telecast of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, with more than 115 advertisers taking part. Of those, 31 are sponsors who did not take part in the 2020 counterpart. Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra is expected to support fan lounges in select arenas, while Google will sponsor closed captioning during broadcasts on TNT. Meanwhile, Kroger will host a vaccination site, in partnership with TNT that will award prizes to people who get COVID vaccinations in certain locations. Videos will appear during studio coverage.

And the company also hinted at new ad formats that will be available via HBO Max, including marketing messages that show up on screen during moments when viewers pause their selection.

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