Ad Buyers Judge TV Upfronts: ABC Wins Raves, NBC Needs More “Risks”


The spending is down as reactions roll in and a few shows ('Supergirl') come to the rescue.

This story first appeared in the May 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Following two weeks of digital players from Yahoo to YouTube promising engagement and precision, the five networks rolled into Manhattan's most prestigious theaters and assured media buyers that there was no bigger platform than broadcast. Still, they face an uphill battle, with the total amount of money advertisers intend to commit expected to plummet 7 percent (a 10 percent and 5 percent drop in broadcast and cable spending, respectively), according to Magna Global.

Included in the nets' presentations were a flurry of self-serving statistics and several dozen sizzle reels for new comedies and dramas, 45 in total. "We all start the week like, 'I love this.' And by Friday, it's like, 'What was that show I loved on Monday?'" notes Starcom USA president Amanda Richman of the onslaught of presentations from May 11 to May 14.

A handful did garner buzz — ABC's Muppets, CBS' Supergirl, Fox's Scream Queens — though more chatter focused on the reliance on titles (Minority Report, Rush Hour) along with genre and medical fare. Also of note: a retreat in comedy (NBC has only two half-hours on its fall schedule) and a growing dependence on buying from within (Fox and ABC will own or co-own more than 80 percent of their scripted fare).

In assessing the week, ABC widely was believed to have put on the most impressive show, helped by a strong narrative, a cohesive brand and a biting roast from Jimmy Kimmel. (Sample line: "We're so diverse that when CBS drives by us, they lock their car doors.") NBC, on the other hand, left many who were surveyed cold. "Their approach was somewhat surprising to me," says Starcom senior vp digital acceleration Harvin Furman. "When you're a network that has gone from a position of strength to a challenged position, typically you see more risks."

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