Home CTV WBD Reasserts Its Place In Ad-Supported Streaming

WBD Reasserts Its Place In Ad-Supported Streaming


Warner Bros. Discovery had the most to prove during this week’s upfronts.

Unlike its biggest competitors, WBD’s revenue is dropping, in part due to lingering debt from the merger between Warner Media and Discovery. Buyers were skeptical ahead of upfront week about how successful WBD would be in its ad sales negotiations.

So, the company used its upfront stage on Wednesday to set the record straight.

Now that the two companies and their ad tech stacks are merged, advertisers can effectively run campaigns across the full portfolio, Bruce Campbell, chief revenue and strategy officer, told buyers.

On Wednesday, WBD announced a suite of ad products and shared new subscriber growth stats for Max. The company also touted Olli, the consolidated first-party data platform it launched last month.

WBD flexes its ad chops

Compared to other broadcasters that focused mostly on studio productions and shows, WBD spent the most time talking ad tech during its upfront.

One new ad format WBD unveiled offers an opportunity to sponsor movies and films when WBD adds them to Max. Early adopters include Olay, AT&T and Walmart. There is also a new contextual offering that analyzes themes within content (such as travel and lifestyle) to determine where in a stream to serve a related ad.

The third new ad product is a data-driven video tool that helps buyers plan campaigns across linear and streaming. The product is built on Olli and is designed to reach new viewers within a brand’s target audience, according to Jon Steinlauf, chief of US ad sales.

Steinlauf also told the audience that WBD is working on shoppable ad units, although he didn’t share details.

… and the value of Max


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Ad innovation is cool and all, but advertisers still need to see meaningful scale before making sizable commitments.

Max’s subscriber base on its ad-supported tier has doubled since 2022, when the app was still HBO Max. Now, about half of new sign-ups are choosing the ad-supported plan, Steinlauf said.

Steinlauf also bragged about Max’s ad load as a selling point for viewers.

“While many streamers have increased their ad load,” he said, Max averages less than four minutes of ads per hour of content.

Fewer ads mean more impact, Steinlauf said, because viewers pay more attention when they don’t feel bombarded by ads throughout programs. The tough part is finding new subscribers.

WBD hopes sports programming will help attract new subs.

It touted its work with leagues such as the NBA, NCAA and the NHL, plus a recent deal with NASCAR that adds TNT (and Prime Video) as rightsholders. And at the very end of the event, WBD briefly mentioned its sports-focused streaming venture with Fox and Disney (although neither mentioned it during their respective upfronts).

We’ll see how the negotiations go.

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