Writers' Strike May Cancel TV Upfront
The broadcasts networks are considering canceling the star-clad “upfront” events in favor of block-and-tackle sales calls with top advertisers, according to the NY Times:
“with the writers’ strike now looking as if it may extend into the new year, threatening the normal timetable for developing prime-time series, every major network is pondering the elimination of the big, garish upfront shows — which cost $3 million to $5 million a year.
“Jeff Zucker, the president of NBC Universal, is the most vocal, willing to say publicly that his network is contemplating junking its upfront event. For NBC in recent years, that has consisted of unveiling the new lineup before a packed crowd in Radio City Music Hall, and a canape-and-drinks party in and around the skating rink in Rockefeller Plaza.
“‘In light of the changing business environment, we are looking very seriously at not doing the extravaganza part of the upfront process,’ said Mr. Zucker, who acknowledged that he has been thinking for some time that the upfront shows have outlived their usefulness and cost-effectiveness. ‘Once we make it, it is not a one-year decision,’ Mr. Zucker said. ‘We do not make it lightly, and obviously we are going to consult with our advertising partners.’
“Mr. Zucker emphasized that NBC would still take part in the actual selling part of the upfront, where deals are made with advertisers to pay set prices for time on network shows. He said that the process remained ‘the best mechanism’ to do business for new network schedules.
“Those deals — the networks took in more than $9 billion in last year’s upfront — would simply be made after much smaller presentations in much smaller settings for much smaller groups of ad buyers. It would become, Mr. Zucker said, more like ‘a personal call’ on advertisers, much more the way most cable networks have sold in the upfront: small concentrated sales efforts.”
I bet that’s a relief for programming execs like Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, who has had to dance with stars at previous upfronts.