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It’s about that time of year: the annual television network upfronts for Madison Avenue ad buyers. New York will play host to dozens of parties and presentations May 13-16 as broadcast networks look to impress ad buyers with glitzy presentations (ratings spin!) and fancy parties (photo ops!).
But the annual upfront pitch arrives amid a changing landscape that is increasingly geared less toward advertisers and as media behemoths Disney, WarnerMedia and Comcast are focused more than ever on streaming. On the other end of the spectrum, talent agencies are at odds with the WGA over packaging fees. That has significantly impacted the number of glitzy parties the talent agencies typically throw for writer clients in New York as many are either bypassing the event or taking a wait-and-see approach to see what happens amid pending litigation.
On the network side, Fox will tout its new status as an indie network. Disney will unveil new assets FX and National Geographic with ESPN now folded into the mix. (Streaming service Disney+ will not be featured). Turner’s annual upfront has been rebranded for WarnerMedia and will now focus on all of the company’s portfolio. (It’s unclear if any of its subscription-based offerings, like its unnamed streaming service — overseen by Turner boss Kevin Reilly —or HBO will be part of the presentation.)
Here is The Hollywood Reporter‘s list of the major events thrown by networks and agencies during this year’s festivities. This page will be updated as additional information becomes available. (All times are East Coast.)
For the fourth time, NBCUniversal will combine broadcast and cable events in one massive presentation. This includes NBC, Syfy, Bravo, USA Network, MSNBC, Oxygen, E! and Telemundo, among others. Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Ave.; Monday, May 13, 10:30 a.m. ET.
Look no further than Fox for the biggest sign of how much the industry has changed in the past year. This will be the new Fox Entertainment’s first upfront presentation to advertisers as a newly independent broadcast network as former Fox assets National Geographic and FX will now be part of Disney’s supersize presentation. Beacon Theater, 2124 Broadway; Monday, May 13, 4 p.m. ET. Party to follow at Wollman Rink in Central Park.
Univision’s two-day “experiential upfront” returns for its second year and will feature more than a dozen interactive experiences focused on news, entertainment and sports franchises. Center 415 (415 5th Ave. between E. 37th and 38th St.); Monday, May 13, at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, May 14, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Fresh off closing its $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox assets, Disney will host its first-ever combined upfront presentation that will include newly acquired FX and National Geographic on top of ABC, ABC News, younger-skewing cable network Freeform and ESPN, with the latter ditching its annual breakfast event. In announcing its upfront plans, Disney noted it will highlight its combined reach across broadcast, cable and digital, though Disney+ — fresh off its April investor day — will not be part of the presentation. In keeping with tradition, Jimmy Kimmel will again take the stage for his annual roast of the industry. Kenny Mayne will also participate. The event starts at 3 p.m. with a preshow interactive event. Presentation starts at 4 p.m., with an invitation-only afterparty to follow. David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, 132 W. 65th St.; Tuesday, May 14.
Turner’s annual upfront has been rebranded as an all-in-one presentation of the newly launched WarnerMedia. The venue and timing remain the same — Wednesday, May 15, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza; 10 a.m. The combined Time Warner and AT&T hourlong event will, per an insider, showcase how its premium content helps consumers “Connect to What Matters Most.” At press time, it’s unclear which executives will be taking the stage in the reconfigured event, which will feature performances and interactive experiences that span entertainment, news and sports. An invitation-only “Booze, Bites & Beats”-inspired dinner will be held 7-10 p.m. at The Nomad (10 W. 28th St.), followed by an invitation-only afterparty at Stage 48 (605 W. 48th St.) featuring music from a surprise performer.
Network upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and 7th Ave.; Wednesday, May 15, 4 p.m. Reception for advertisers to follow at the Plaza Hotel ,off 5th Avenue and Central Park South.
New York City Center, 131 West 55th St. (between 6th and 7th Ave.); Thursday, May 16, 11 a.m. Followed by private afterparty, location under wraps.
Bypassing traditional upfront this year for private meetings.
For the second year in a row, CAA will not be hosting an upfronts party.
As one of the big four agencies currently being sued by the WGA, it’s unclear if WME will host its annual shindig at steakhouse Peter Luger.
Skipping its long-running Tuesday event.
In a change, ICM will forgo a formal cocktails and reception this year, and will instead host small private dinners.
In a change, the upfront staple will bypass its annual Sunday night bash kicking off the week of presentations this year.
The Terrace at the Bowery Hotel, 335 Bowery; Tuesday, May 14, 8 p.m.-midnight.
Lit agency Verve — which exclusively reps writers and directors — is taking a wait-and-see approach to hosting a party. While not a member of the Association of Talent Agencies, Verve has sided with the group in rejecting the WGA’s proposed Code of Conduct. An upfronts party will likely happen should both sides come to an agreement.
Keep track of all the latest renewals and cancellations with THR‘s scorecard and of all the series pickups (and passes) with our handy guide. For complete coverage and analysis, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.
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