Karen Grinthal, Veteran Ad Exec, to Exit Warner Bros. Discovery
Karen Grinthal, a veteran ad-sales executive who has long represented cable’s Food Network and other properties to Madison Avenue, is set to retire from her post.
Grinthal, who has worked at Scripps and then Discovery Communications for years, was recently named part of the new senior ad-sales executive team at Warner Bros. Discovery. Grinthal was named in July to be one of three top executives overseeing linear and digital sales for cable networks reporting in to Jon Steinlauf, head of U.S. ad sales for the company. Grinthal was assigned to supervise linear and digital sales and revenue for Food Network, TLC, TBS Entertainment, OWN, Cooking Channel, Cartoon Network and WB Syndication.
“Karen Grinthal has made the decision to retire at the end of the year after an impressive career that has come full circle,” Warner Bros. Discovery said in a statement. “She began her career in network radio and then moved to Turner before beginning at Scripps, which of course led her to Discovery and now WBD. Karen has been a leader and a mentor to many and so positively impacted many people’s careers over her decades in the industry. She will play an active role in both hiring and training her successor.”
Grinthal will depart as Warner Bros. Discovery is still making a case to advertisers. The company met with resistance from ad buyers and clients during the industry’s annual “upfront” market, when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for their next programming cycle.
Warner Bros. Discovery insisted advertisers commit to high levels of volume and outsize rate hikes in order to gain access to top-rated programming, according to people familiar with the matter. They also said the company even threatened to withhold ad inventory on HGTV and Warner’s sports portfolio if they refused to comply. Some buyers and ad-sales executives familiar with recent negotiations suggest clients may have moved money elsewhere in a rebuke of the effort. “Despite the more challenging macro environment, we’re very pleased with our performance” in the upfront, said Gunnar Wiedenfels, the company’s chief financial officer, during a recent call with investors.
Warner Bros. Discovery is working to rid itself of a sizable debt overhang it inherited when it acquired the former WarnerMedia from AT&T.
During her tenure, Grinthal helped weave advertising into Food Network programs that previously avoided integrations. As its famous chefs grew more famous, the cable outlet began to work as a broker of sorts that allowed its celebrity food experts to promote sponsors on air. Placements have taken the form of product appearances in the shows themselves, or in the ad breaks, where Food Network talent might show up in special vignettes hawking the wares.
In 2006, for example, Guy Fieri, at the time fresh from winning “The Next Food Network Star,” began to tout the TGI Friday’s. restaurant chain As Fieri hosted “Ultimate Recipe Showdown,” recipes from the program would show up in promotional cards at the chain’s outlets. Alex Guarnaschelli, who came to be known as a regular judge on “Chopped,” was enlisted to share recipes inspired by sponsor Fisher Nuts during ad breaks on both Food Network and Cooking Channel. And John Lee, executive chef of Outback Steakhouse, served as a judge on an Australian-themed episode of “Chopped,” while FedEx was able to demonstrate how it helped print and deliver posters quickly on “Restaurant: Impossible.”
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