Selling Streaming: Jim Keller On His Jump From Hulu To Discovery

Jim Keller Discovery

Just before launching its Discovery+ streaming service in January, Discovery recruited a new sales leader to evangelize its advanced TV ads.

Jim Keller joined Discovery in December as EVP of digital ad sales and advanced advertising after spending time at NBCUniversal, MTV and – most recently – Hulu.

“Anything delivered over an IP address, whether it’s streaming or in an app or on site or social, is my responsibility,” Keller said. He also covers advanced TV, from dynamic ad insertion to partnerships with On Addressability or Open AP – anything that’s bringing data to enhance linear ads.

Keller talked to AdExchanger about Discovery’s offering, what buyers are asking for in this pre-upfront cycle, and what programmatic means to Discovery.

AdExchanger: What does identity look like on Discovery+?

JIM KELLER: It’s really about the Discovery Digital suite of assets. We have a lot of customer information from HGTV’s Smart Home and Dream Home contests, which are site-driven offerings.  

And that extended out to our Go platform, which are authenticated cable customers, where we obviously have device IDs and IP addresses. They’re logged in, we know who they are. Building that DTC product with Discovery+ allows us to extend that relationship. It’s still in the early days in terms of subscriber size and actives.

What kind of automation have clients been asking for in their TV investments?

More clients are looking to automate their investments digitally. They’re looking for cross-platform measurement, cross-platform campaign frequency management, and bringing in their own data sets in programmatic PMPs.

Programmatic has really escalated in the last six months, and I expect that clients are going to look to make guaranteed commitments at a guaranteed price point, but they’re going to want to automate that.

I do think the future of advertising will be automated. We have relationships with all the major DSPs. SpotX acts as our primary SSP.

How do you prioritize programmatic in your ad stack?

We don’t offer a header bidding solution. Everything competes at the same level, based off our user experience, frequency management controls and price. We are not augmenting the system to give one deal or deal type preferential treatment.

What kind of viewing behavior have you seen so far on Discovery+?

We have 55,000 episodes in our library, and more than 90% of the content has been viewed to date. There’s no one show that’s 40% or 50% of viewing. There are shows that we’ve been really excited about, like “90 Day: The Single Life,” or some of our Magnolia preview shows, but we’ve also seen people diving deep into the true crime genre, or spending maybe three hours a day catching up on old episodes of “Gold Rush” or “Deadliest Catch.”

Average view time is upwards of three hours per viewing session for all active users, which is best in class of all the streamers in the marketplace.

What kind of incremental reach does digital streaming provide?

We deliver 173 million monthly uniques across our platform. When digital is added to a client’s linear buys, it adds 16% incremental reach, which is super important in this market as clients clamor to re-aggregate the lost audiences of linear television. Well, the first place to do that within our portfolio is by adding digital.

If clients can get 16% incremental reach by adding digital, how does that play out in upfront conversations, in terms of figuring out what goes to digital vs. linear?

I don’t want to get into tactics because we’re in the throes of “posturing-slash-negotiation,” but we know how valuable our audience continues to be on linear. While the average rating is less today than it was yesterday, we can re-aggregate those audiences across multiple platforms.

Not only do you get the incremental reach, but you have increased brand favorability, intent to purchase and brand awareness stories. We’ve partnered with a couple of dozen different attribution vendors across the marketplace that prove out the value of investment in linear and digital.

Speaking of measurement, outcome-based buying was pushed by many programmers during past upfronts. Are you seeing many buyers request that type of transaction?

There are some clients that have been asking us for outcome-based buying and guarantees, and others are looking for measurement and data points. They might want the traditional Nielsen or comScore guarantee, but ask for a secondary guarantee. I have not seen a ton of marketers come to us and say, I want to forego the Nielsen guarantees and only guarantee on the secondary demo.

What are clients asking for in this pre-upfront cycle?

Clients are looking for flexibility in where they put their investments that follow the audience. They’re looking for the ability to have money slide from network to network, from platform to platform, and ensure that their investments are going to reach the audiences they want.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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