March 2, 2024

Warner Bros. Discovery Makes a Big Shake-up to Its Ad Sales Org

  • Warner Bros. Discovery is shaking up its ad sales organization.
  • The media giant is backing off its sales approach that was controversial with some ad buyers.
  • It’s also expected to make further staff reductions in ad sales as part of the restructure.

Warner Bros. Discovery is shaking up its ad sales organization and structure of two years.

The media giant is undoing its approach of selling its networks and platforms in content-centric bundles and instead letting advertisers buy Warner Bros. Discovery’s entire portfolio of brands, including lifestyle, entertainment, sports, news, and streaming from their sales reps.

WBD gave expanded responsibility to two existing sales leaders, Marybeth Strobel and Greg Regis. Top ad holding company Publicis, Group M, and Horizon accounts will sit with Regis, while Strobel will be responsible for Omnicom, Magna, and Dentsu.

In other changes, Ryan Gould will now lead WBD’s digital team in a newly created role, with responsibility for Max, Discovery+, WBD Stream, and CNN digital, as well as advanced advertising, programmatic sales, and data strategy. 

Jon Diament, an experienced sports ad exec, will handle sports advertisers who are partners of the NBA, NCAA, MLB, and NHL.

Sheereen Russell will oversee a new client partnerships team that will focus on client development and partnership strategy with key advertisers.

WBD also is expected to make further ad sales reductions as part of the restructuring.

“Over the past year, we have been listening to our clients and partners and have seen firsthand what is delivering real value for them and great performance for us. This new structure will allow us to deliver what matters most for all – creating a single and seamless interface into the full world of WBD,” WBD chief US advertising sales officer Jon Steinlauf said in a prepared statement. “We are leveraging the power of our world-class content, platforms, and partnerships to drive how the market works now — and for years to come.”  

Speculation about the changes has been building for some time. The previous approach, put in place after the WBD merger was completed, was designed to target audiences by grouping similar content together, but it felt antiquated to some insiders and advertisers, especially the group called a “male bundle,” and advertisers had to talk to multiple salespeople in order to buy across WBD’s portfolio.

The new structure brings some clarity to a sales org that’s seen other big departures in recent weeks. EVP Jim Keller, who was key to bringing a digital approach to the merged company’s newly combined sales team, left, along with Scott Kohn, EVP of national ad sales, and John Dailey, SVP of ad sales. 

WBD already reduced its ad sales staff by hundreds following the 2022 merger as CEO David Zaslav sought to slash costs to justify the union, and execs have called this a rebuilding year. Still, layoffs have continued to trickle out in 2023, including a round at the sports division.

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