At the Upfronts, as the television industry’s annual pitch event for advertisers is known, the traditional television aspect of the game may have never been more important this year.
Amid the rapid evolution toward streaming video, this week’s presentations focused less on the networks’ traditional hourly scheduling strategies and more on the actual content that is now largely available to consumers, wherever and whenever they want.
On the surface, at least, the upfronts were a return to the norm.
After two years of remote events during the Covid-19 pandemic, network owners like Comcast corps
NBC Universal, Fox corp
Warner Bros. Discovery inc,
Paramount Global and Walt Disney co
has held in-person gatherings again this week in Manhattan at venues including Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall and the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden. Companies have drawn on their celebrity talent — from Kevin Costner to Jessica Chastain to Selena Gomez — to promote their shows live on stage, which often ended with musical performances by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Trace Adkins and Jennifer Hudson.
But the signs of the shifts in entertainment and advertising were clear.
Alphabet for the first time inc
YouTube made its presentation during the week as it did during previous NewFronts, where tech companies face off against advertisers along the lines of TV Upfronts.
“Traditionally, the upfronts are for the television networks,” Allan Thygesen, Alphabet’s president for the Americas and global partner at Google, said at the YouTube event on Tuesday. “But today, because of the incredible changes we’ve seen in the media industry, we know, as many of you know, that’s not your parents’ thing.”
Here’s what everyone else was talking about at this year’s Upfronts.
Netflix, Netflix, Netflix
was the subject of a series of jokes during the week’s presentations after saying last month it was considering offering a lower-priced ad-supported version of its service. The company also announced this week that it would cut about 150 employees in a fresh round of layoffs as the streaming company grapples with slowing revenue growth and a shrinking subscriber base.
Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, joked Tuesday about Netflix’s longstanding competition with traditional networks, saying, “Netflix has lost subscribers for the first time ever. Things are really tough over there, they had layoffs today… So now they’re coming for our money. Our advertising money.”
“After years of choking the life out of us from these smug bastards, it feels really good to see them deign to sell ads,” he said.
Similar digs surfaced in presentations from Fox, where Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks joked to advertisers that “without you, we’d just be Netflix,” and NBCUniversal, where Linda Yaccarino — the chair of global advertising and partnerships — said so to some Company said advertising could be an afterthought, “or worse, a new idea for a revenue stream.”
But advertisers themselves are excited about Netflix’s push.
“It’s gotten more competitive, but that’s great because it just means there’s going to be more innovation, which is better for consumers and brands,” said Sara Adler, TV director at Within, a New York-based marketing agency.
Content about calendar
The presentations underscored networks’ growing desire to reach consumers how, whenever and whatever they watch, rather than relying so heavily on traditional schedules of daily programming blocks.
“The concept of seeing everything on a set day and time is, with a few exceptions, outdated,” said Denise Ocasio, executive director and US head of investment at WPP PLC media agency Mindshare. “Viewers watch good content, and the production of that content has been at the heart of every presentation so far,” she said Wednesday during the week’s events.
NBCUniversal also highlighted three new films that will go straight to its Peacock streaming service when they debut next year, and CEO Jeff Shell confirmed the novelty of talking about films ahead of time. Peacock contains ad-supported tiers.
Disney executives, representing not only networks like ABC and ESPN, but also the streaming service Disney+ and its upcoming ad-supported version, spoke of “the greatest amount of top-notch storytelling we’ve ever produced.”
“Each partner is doubling the depth and breadth of its portfolio, particularly the strength of its film studios, which is new,” said Mindshare’s Ms. Ocasio. “No doubt it’s due to the continued merging of films on their streaming platforms within shorter timeframes.”
Measurement updates in progress
Networks have highlighted their tests of alternative measurement currencies as Nielsen’s TV metrics dominance falters and the field remains in flux.
The Media Rating Council, the industry’s measurement regulator, withdrew its accreditation of Nielsen’s national and local TV ratings last year. Nielsen remains the dominant currency in TV ad deals, but the development opened the door for new strategies: NBCUniversal said in January it would also be working with iSpot.tv Inc., a company aimed at helping advertisers achieve the Review the reach and impact of their television and streaming ads as it seeks to better quantify how consumers view ads across media.
Paramount said it’s offering buyers additional choices with VideoAmp, Comscore and soon iSpot.tv, while Warner Bros. Discovery said it’s working with those companies as well.
“The challenges of measurement are industry-wide and will be addressed with each partner during negotiations,” Ms. Ocasio said. “Our trading currency needs to be universal across partners, so we will continue to test both Nielsen and alternative currencies to recommend the one with the greatest accuracy and value to our clients.”
Within’s Ms Adler said Nielsen isn’t going away, but alternative currencies will help advertisers looking for insights that go deeper than what an ad achieved.
Marketers are asking more of measurement than they have in many decades, Ms. Adler said. “Impressions are only so much,” she said.
write to Megan Graham at [email protected]
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