ABC haven’t made an announcement yet, but the hours after NBC and CBS pulled the plug on their live New York City Upfronts presentations, WarnerMedia, the CW and Fox did the same and now so has Discovery
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“With Discovery’s increased scale and reach, we were proud and excited to showcase our expanded portfolio of beloved brands and talent, for the first time, during the traditional broadcast Upfront week,” Jon Steinlauf, Discovery’s Chief U.S. Ad Sales Officer said Thursday. “The decision to cancel is bittersweet but unequivocally the right one,” he added “We have a terrific story to tell and more opportunities and products than ever for current and prospective advertisers. We will just tell that story in a way that best suits these unprecedented times.”
Undoubtedly, Discovery will go digital as the Comcast-owned NBC and the ViacomCBS-owned network have already made clear is their intent. As large swaths of Hollywood and America shut down or become shut-ins, Fox indicated that digital may be their next move too.
“While we always look forward to seeing our brand and agency partners at the Beacon Theatre, the health and well-being of our clients, talent and colleagues is our top priority,” Fox’s Advertising Sales boss Marianne Gambelli stated on Thursday afternoon of the May event. “We are reimagining our presentation to engage our clients using a new format that will highlight the quality content the industry expects from FOX,” the exec added. “As the leading broadcast network this season, we have so much to build on and share, and we look forward to doing that in this new way.”
The declaration by the Charlie Collier run net comes less than 20 minutes after the CW took its own live Big Apple Upfront event off the stage and headed digital.
“In light of recent developments and the current guidelines being set by health officials regarding COVID-19, The CW Network has decided to forego its traditional live upfront presentation scheduled for Thursday May 14 at City Center Theater in New York, as we join the community’s efforts to ensure that everyone’s health and safety is our top priority,” the ViacomCBS and AT&T co-owned outlet said Thursday.
“As a result, we are currently exploring alternative and innovative ways of communicating The CW’s overall strategy, showcase our new and returning programming and present our upcoming fall schedule to advertisers, press, the industry and our fans,” the network also stated. “We will be sharing additional details as we move forward.”
At this point, Fox and the Disney-owned ABC still have their high wattage NYC gatherings in front of deep pocket advertisers on the calendar … but clearly discussions are being had in those boardrooms right now, if you know what I mean?
The CW announcement came not long after its corporate cousin went digital as Broadway begins to shut down and Gov. Andrew Cuomo today banned all gatherings of more than 500 people in the Empire State
“The health and safety of the advertising community, our employees and production partners is our absolute priority, so we will alter our plans for this year’s Upfront presentation,” said Gerhard Zeiler, Chief Revenue Officer, WarnerMedia and Kirk McDonald, Chief Business Officer, Xandr. “We have the technological and creative means to showcase our unified WarnerMedia/Xandr message through a unique video experience and will do just that on May 13.”
The CW and WarnerMedia moves follow on the heels on the two broadcast networks downsizing themselves, so to speak.
“We’ll miss Carnegie Hall and our agency dinners this year, but the health and safety of our clients and the ViacomCBS team comes first,” said Jo Ann Ross, President and Chief Advertising Revenue Officer, ViacomCBS Domestic Advertising Sales today. “CBS has a very good story to tell, and this year we need a unique way to tell it,” added the network’s Entertainment boss Kelly Kahl as the company shifts from its usual Carnegie Hall shindig to a video Upfront special that will be posted to digital platforms on May 13.
“We’re confident that this alternate format for this year can deliver what we’ve come to expect from a CBS Upfront – entertainment, stars, strategy and the first look at our new primetime series,” Kahl sought to assure advertisers.
Facing up to scientific reality and the bottom line, Comcast-owned NBCUniversal made a similar call almost simultaneously with their broadcast rival.
“At this moment in time, we can embrace a new future that puts our audiences and our partners first,” declared Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s Chairman of Advertising & Partnerships Thursday too. “This year’s Upfront Presentation will ensure everyone’s safety, while allowing us to give fans and marketers a preview of the upcoming season,” Yaccarino noted, on what is also close to the scheduled time frame for the July 15 launch of the corporation’s Peacock streamer.
The broadcast Upfronts are a key forum for networks to showcase their upcoming fall schedules, and the strength of their lineup and their executive team to hundreds of advertising executives. It kicks off the upfront season where broadcasters sell most of their ad inventory. The tradition has been ongoing since the 1960s and became known for bell-and-whistles performance, talent and lavish parties after.
As broadcast ratings declined the demise of the Upfront was often predicted but they’ve remained a popular way to focus attention on new and returning programming and increasingly varied ways for advertisers to work across platforms. The industry is in uncharted waters with the events canceled and it remains to be seen how networks will work with advertisers and agencies on the process this year.
In an industry that is closing down by the minute, the fact that it has taken until today for the broadcasters to publicly make this move is the biggest surprise in this scenario.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic and the Empire State itself is already under a state of emergency because of the ever expanding COVID-19.
We will update with more notices as they occur – stay tuned.
Jill Goldsmith contributed to this report
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