Warner Bros. Discovery is making a big shake-up to its ad sales org. Read how its sales chief explained the changes.

  • 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 reorganizing and restructuring its ad sales organization and structure.

The media conglomerate is abandoning its strategy of selling its networks and platforms in content-centric bundles, instead allowing advertisers to purchase Warner Bros. Discovery’s diverse portfolio of brands, which includes lifestyle, entertainment, sports, news, and streaming, through their sales reps. The changes bring WBD closer to how other media conglomerates approach the market.

WBD gave additional authority to two existing sales leaders, Marybeth Strobel and Greg Regis. Regis will be in charge of Publicis, Group M, and Horizon accounts, while Strobel will be in charge of Omnicom, Magna, and Dentsu.

In other news, Ryan Gould has been promoted to lead WBD’s digital team, 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 advertising executive, will handle sports advertisers who are NBA, NCAA, MLB, and NHL partners.

Sheereen Russell will lead a new client partnerships team focused on client development and key advertiser partnership strategy.

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

“We have spent the last year listening to our clients and partners and seeing firsthand what is delivering real value for them and great performance for us.” This new structure will enable us to deliver what is most important to everyone – creating a single and seamless interface into the entire 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.”

For some time, there has been speculation about the changes. The previous strategy, implemented following the completion of the WBD merger, was intended to target audiences by grouping similar content together. However, it appeared antiquated to some insiders and advertisers, particularly the group known as a “male bundle,” and advertisers had to speak with multiple salespeople in order to purchase across WBD’s portfolio.

The new structure adds some clarity to a sales organization that has seen other significant departures in recent weeks. EVP Jim Keller, who was instrumental in bringing a digital approach to the newly combined company’s sales team, left, as did Scott Kohn, EVP of national ad sales, and John Dailey, SVP of ad sales.

Following the 2022 merger, WBD already reduced its ad sales staff by hundreds as CEO David Zaslav sought to cut costs to justify the union, and executives have referred to this year as a rebuilding year. Nonetheless, layoffs have continued in 2023, including a round at the sports division.

Here are excerpts from Steinlauf’s memo to staff that Insider reviewed, demonstrating how he explained the changes:

First and foremost, thank you for all of your hard work and enthusiasm as we near the end of this year’s Upfront. We’re gaining traction, and I’m very proud of what we’re accomplishing.

This morning, we’re announcing a new sales structure and strategy based on the lessons we’ve learned and successes we’ve had over the last year.

In the coming weeks, we will transition to a new client-first, agency-focused structure with a new leadership team. It is intended to give our agency partners direct and simplified access to our entire WBD portfolio of offerings via a streamlined, single point-of-contact sales experience.

He wrote later in the memo:

Our ‘quads’ are now agency portal teams in this new structure. Collaboration that occurs during the initial portal process becomes the norm for the entire year. AEs will be genre-aligned and subject matter experts in streaming, entertainment, sports, and news.SVPs and VPs will act as generalists across the portfolio and will be assigned to specific holding companies and their agencies. Our genre teams will also report to the respective dedicated sales leader on a dual basis.

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