Discovery hires Hulu’s Jim Keller to helm digital ads

The hire makes a lot of sense, said industry analyst Brett Sappington, because Discovery+ and Hulu have similar business models. (Discovery)

As it gets ready to launch its own subscription-based streaming service in flavors with and without advertising, Discovery has hired some help from Hulu.

The company announced Monday morning that it’s bringing on Jim Keller, formerly Hulu’s vice president for national advertising sales to run digital advertising. Much of Keller’s work in his new gig will involve Discovery+, the streaming service that will launch Jan. 4 in the U.S. at $4.99 per month with ads or $6.99 per month without them.

Keller will also oversee digital ad sales at Discovery’s other streaming apps, including its TV Everywhere-authenticated experiences and video-on-demand offerings.

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“Discovery’s quality programming across verticals, combined with top talent and valuable brands, offer a marketing space that is one of the broadest and safest in digital video, which will soon be expanded with the launch of discovery+,” said Keller in a statement.

Before his almost seven-year stint at Hulu, Keller’s career included work in both digital and linear TV advertising at NBCUniversal’s Bravo, MTV Networks, NBCUniversal’s sports and Olympics operations and Fox Sports.

“Jim Keller’s addition makes a lot of sense,” said Brett Sappington, a vice president at the market-research firm Interpret, in an email to Fierce. “Hulu and discovery+ have very similar business models and content. From his work at Hulu, Jim has experience in selling this type of value proposition to advertisers.”

Said Discovery chief U.S. ad sales officer Jon Steinlauf in the company’s release: “Our ambition is to drive both rapid growth in DTC ad sales for discovery+ and utilize Jim’s deep expertise to accelerate our advanced advertising and data-driven cross platform sales solutions, while growing Discovery’s high-quality audience, especially with female and family demographics.”

Discovery+ will include both Discovery’s large library of existing content and new series featuring the likes of Chip and Joanna Gaines; Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis; Amy Schumer; Carla Hall; and Sir David Attenborough.

Keller’s hire follows Discovery’s purchase in September of the the ad-tech startup AdSparx, which provides a cloud platform for dynamic ad insertion. The company said at the time that it would use this system to target ads in Discovery+ and other direct-to-consumer services.

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Sappington said getting that ad business right — in the sense of it throwing off enough income to keep Discovery+’s rates below those of competitors in this increasingly crowded OTT market — will be crucial.

“While consumers continue to pack on streaming service subscriptions, many in the OTT space are concerned that consumers will become exhausted with the number of subscriptions and throttle back,” he said.