The Speed of Culture Podcast: How Sports Fans Are Keeping Linear TV Alive

Learn more about the evolution of TV advertising with Jon Steinlauf, chief U.S. advertising sales officer at Warner Bros. Discovery

With the array of streaming services available today, viewers have more ways than ever to watch television, often opting for ad-free experiences that many find preferable. But what has this meant for advertisers? To learn more about the evolution of TV advertising, we spoke to Jon Steinlauf, chief U.S. advertising sales officer at Warner Bros. Discovery.

Jon Steinlauf, the chief U.S. advertising sales officer at Warner Bros. Discovery, brings nearly 40 years of advertising expertise to the table, with a career spanning from his role as director of ad sales at ESPN to now. His significant contributions to the field have earned him a place on the Adweek 50 list four times, an annual recognition celebrating the most influential leaders in advertising and media.

Tune into the latest episode and check out the key takeaways below.

Key takeaways:

  • 05:57 – 07:57 Targeted advertising
    The landscape of TV advertising has become increasingly challenging due to the proliferation of streaming services and devices. In response, the industry is shifting towards a more efficient, waste-free advertising strategy, emphasizing the importance of data-driven linear advertising. For advertisers, leveraging first-party data has become crucial, allowing them to integrate this information with broadcaster data to maximize their reach within the desired audience. For Steinlauf, this—the importance of targeting and being able to eliminate waste in advertising.
  • 21:35- 24:48 An additive approach to advertising
    Steinlauf’s role involves strategically aligning brands with the appropriate media assets, according to specific audiences. A prime example is the partnership for True Detective: Night Country, where Warner Bros. secured a presenting sponsorship with GMC for its Sierra truck. This collaboration led to a unique pre-show segment that informed viewers of an uninterrupted viewing experience, sponsored by GMC Sierra. A similar approach is seen in sports, where celebrities and marketing partnerships with leagues are crafted into ads to create branded entertainment. Both approaches enhance the viewer’s experience rather than detracting from it.
  • 28:34 – 31:01 The future of TV
    Despite the surge in streaming service popularity, Steinlauf is optimistic about the future of linear TV, particularly due to the steadfast demand among sports fans. Given that no single streaming platform provides coverage of all sports, he believes that broadcast and cable bundles will continue to be relevant. Because of sports fans, Steinlauf predicts that these traditional TV formats will remain in use for at least another five years.
  • 31:48 – 35:24 Advertisers need to listen
    Steinlauf’s journey into sales was unconventional, given that he doesn’t consider himself a natural salesperson. His initial foray into advertising at ESPN was made smoother by his genuine passion for sports, which helped him in his early sales roles. However, he soon recognized the necessity of carving out his own niche for success in sales. For Steinlauf, the key was to always stay attuned to viewer preferences and listen to his clients. Now, he believes that a crucial strategy for others in the field is to regularly follow industry-related podcasts, absorbing insights from experts. He emphasizes that actively listening and being attentive to the information shared is an essential skill for anyone in the advertising sector.