What We Learned About TV During Its Biggest Week


What We Learned About TV During Its Biggest Week

Stocks plummeted and Covid cases surged.

Who is ready to buy ads?

For the first time in three years, the Upfronts — the shows the media industry puts on advertisers to convince them to pay for airtime — took place in person in Manhattan. In recent days, thousands of ad buyers have crowded venerable New York institutions like Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. On the line? Ten billion in advertising revenue.

Here are some of the top takeaways of the week:

In 2019, advertisers spent just 10 percent of their budget on streaming. This year, that budget will increase by nearly 50 percent, several media buyers said in interviews.

The presentations reflected the change. With the exception of a short, two-minute video that focused on the hourly CBS fall schedule, media executives made little mention of their network prime-time lineups. At Disney upfront, the vast majority of trailers and teasers have been dedicated to movies and series for Hulu and Disney+, the flagship streaming service that will launch advertising later this year.

“This is my first offense ever,” Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said of the Disney Upfront stage before unveiling a trailer for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, a new comedy coming to Disney+ this summer will premiere.

This has been a consistent theme throughout the week, with previews of upcoming shows and films on Peacock, Paramount+, HBO Max and Discovery+ all getting plenty of airtime. The free advertising-financed streaming services Tubi (belongs to Fox) and Pluto (belongs to Paramount) were also prominently discussed.

“Traditionally, the upfronts are for the TV networks,” said Allan Thygesen, who manages more than $100 billion for Google’s advertising business in the Americas. “But today, because of the incredible changes we’ve seen in the media industry, that’s not your parents’ business.”

Netflix is ​​aiming to roll out commercials by the end of the year during a period of subscriber slump. Competing executives took this week as an opportunity to say why their own company is a better target for ads.

“We’ve been committed to the ad-supported video business from literally the earliest moments of our history,” he said Jeff Shell, executive director of NBCUniversal, from Radio City Music Hall. “This is not an extension of our core business or a fulcrum. That is our core business.”

Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s global advertising chair, suggested a similar comment, saying that for some of their competitors, “advertising may seem like an afterthought — or worse, a new revenue stream idea. But not here.”

Speaking on Fox ahead of time, Fox Sports chief executive Eric Shanks made an appeal to ad buyers, saying: “We know without you we would just be Netflix. We love selling pizzas and trucks, phones and insurance.”

And Jimmy Kimmel, the upfront king of the roast, took repeated hits at the struggling tech giant.

“Remember when Netflix openly encouraged us to share passwords and we were like, ‘How do these people make money?'” he said ahead of Disney. “It turns out they don’t.”

“Oh, everyone loves ‘Bridgerton’?” he continued. “How much do you think they’re going to love it when it’s interrupted by your Zyrtec commercial every four minutes? We already have Netflix with commercials — it’s called Hulu.”

One-Sight advertisers aren’t used to seeing during the previous week: Fox News.

For years, the Murdochs’ news channel didn’t show up for the Fox presentation ahead of time, a relief to the company’s entertainment executives, who were reluctant to alienate left-leaning Hollywood talent. But three years after Rupert Murdoch sold his film and television studios to Disney, Fox News was featured as prominently as its sports division and its slimmed-down entertainment division for the first time in Monday’s Fox presentation.

“We’re all part of a Fox,” said Suzanne Scott, Fox News executive director, underscoring the point in pre-recorded video.

Although Ms. Scott never mentioned the network’s top-rated host, Tucker Carlson, who has faced revolts from advertisers in the past for his monologues about race, he did appear in an advertising role.

Later in the week, CNN’s new head, Chris Licht, took the front stage for the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery. Mr. Licht stressed that his cable news channel would increase its commitment to coverage and indicated that the network would move away from increased opinion programming.

“At a time when extremes dominate cable news,” he told advertisers, “we will seek to take a different approach to reflecting the real lives of our viewers and improving the way America and the world uses this medium.” see.”

After two years of virtual showcases streamed from ad buyers’ laptops, the networks were largely in shock and awe—emphasis on shock.

Ad buyers were greeted with blinding lights, seat-shake sounds and elaborate musical numbers. Movie stars like Sylvester Stallone and Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, made appearances, as did a couple of Kardashians and the Manning brothers. Singer Lizzo admonished ad buyers ahead of YouTube’s launch to sing their lyrics “feeling good as hell” — a request she made again the next day at the Warner Bros. Discovery showcase.

On Monday, just as a few thousand unmasked ad buyers were crowding into Radio City Music Hall for NBCUniversal’s event, a warning went out on attendees’ phones: Covid cases were rising in New York and masking indoors was strongly advised .

“It’s great to be with Radio City – what a historic space to be able to tell people you got Covid,” Seth Meyers later said during the presentation.

Barring Covid concerns (Mr Kimmel tested positive just before the Disney presentation and had to appear via satellite), the show went on. Jennifer Hudson sang Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” at Warner Bros. Discovery. Even YouTube, an upfront week rookie, came out loud with pyrotechnics, sequins and jazz hands at a Broadway theater just steps from Times Square.

But behind the illusion was a sea change. Viewer habits are changing, interest in fall programming is gone, and there’s been this ever-present existential concern: What have the upfronts become, and are they still worth it?

“We don’t have to come to the upfronts, shake a few hands, make a few phone calls, and do our media investments for the year,” said Shenan Reed, L’Oreal’s chief media officer, while presenting onstage on YouTube. “The days of the Mad Men’s three-martini lunches are sadly far behind us.”

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