ViacomCBS Schedules Two-Day, Remote Upfront

The media conglomerate's presentation will include the unveiling of CBS' primetime schedule for fall 2020.
Patrick Demarchelier
ViacomCBS ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross

ViacomCBS on Tuesday announced plans for a virtual upfront, becoming the first media conglomerate to go ahead with something resembling a full-fledged presentation to advertisers.

In a memo to clients and partners, chief advertising revenue officer Jo Ann Ross detailed plans for "a series of short virtual presentations" showcasing the company's assets on May 18 and 19. The "ViacomCBS Upfront @ Home" will take place a few days later than what would have been CBS' traditional upfront on May 13. That show at New York's Carnegie Hall, along with all other traditional, in-person gatherings for upfronts week, was called off in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"I planned to be — and frankly, I’d rather be — writing to you this time of year to invite you to one of our intimate upfront dinners or our annual celebration at Carnegie Hall," Ross wrote (read the full memo, below). "Clearly, the current climate is different, but as they say at Carnegie, the show must go on!"

ViacomCBS follows NBCUniversal and Univision in scheduling presentations to the advertising community in mid-May. Both of those companies, however, stressed that their presentations are not remote upfronts, but rather conversations about the state of the business in the wake of the pandemic. Both NBCU and Univision said they were still considering plans for more full-fledged upfronts later.

The May 18 presentation will spotlight the combined assets of the recently merged ViacomCBS and present content from the company's cable portfolio, streaming platform Pluto TV and other digital assets. On May 19, the CBS broadcast network will announce its schedule for fall, and CBS All Access, CBS News and CBS Sports will also showcase their programming.

Ross' memo to clients follows. 

Dear Valued Clients and Partners:

I hope this note finds you, your families and your teams well. We know that several of our friends in the industry have felt the impact of COVID-19 both professionally and personally and we are here to support you however we can.

I planned to be — and frankly, I’d rather be — writing to you this time of year to invite you to one of our intimate upfront dinners or our annual celebration at Carnegie Hall. Clearly, the current climate is different, but as they say at Carnegie, the show must go on!

Since we know most of you continue to work remotely and we want to be mindful of your time, the “ViacomCBS Upfront @Home” will be a series of short virtual presentations over the course of two days.

On Monday, May 18, we will present many of the combined assets and leading solutions from ViacomCBS that are now at your disposal, in addition to a first look at compelling content opportunities across our Entertainment & Youth and Kids & Family brands, BET, Pluto TV and our robust digital offerings.

On Tuesday, May 19, we will unveil the fall programming lineup of the CBS Television Network — America’s Most-Watched Network for 12 years in a row — and original programming from CBS All Access, our premium subscription video-on-demand platform. We’ll also preview exciting opportunities from CBS Sports, including Super Bowl LV, and highlight the powerful and important work being done by our colleagues at CBS News.

Our newly integrated team across ViacomCBS has come together even more quickly than I could have expected despite the pressure of extenuating circumstances. This incredible progress gives me optimism for the days ahead. We have already achieved what we hoped to accomplish in bringing our sales organizations together — one team with a unified mission to provide you with the most powerful, seamless advertising solutions in the industry.

We are simply stronger together. More premium programming and culture-defining franchises spanning every content category... distributed across more complementary platforms... with more creative and sophisticated capabilities and more digital inventory... to help you connect to all of your consumers with our massive reach across every audience.

And most importantly, we’re here for you whenever you’re ready. The ViacomCBS Ad Sales team will collaborate with you on your timeline to adapt your strategies, engage your consumers on the platforms they love most, amplify your messages and achieve your business goals.

As I’ve said to many of you over these past weeks and months, thank you for your enduring partnership during this unprecedented time. We’re proud of the important role we play together, and we look forward to sharing our valuable offerings with you soon.

Stay tuned for an update next week with details on how and when to tune in to our ViacomCBS upfront website to join the virtual presentations.

Until then, wishing you safety and good health.

Jo Ann