Cartoon Network and Oxygen are taking a measured approach to this year's upfront season.
Cartoon is forgoing a flashy presentation and instead opting for a road show, while Oxygen is using its kickoff party for its supermodel competition series, "The Face," as a lead-in to its conversation with advertisers. Both networks expressed a similar goal: more in-depth discussions with media buyers than a big (expensive) party would provide.
Broadcast and cable nets traditionally use lavish parties and presentations that encompass their full lineups to kick off negotiations over ad time in the coming season. This is the first time in more than a decade that Cartoon is skipping the traditional upfront, saying the changing marketplace made the network rethink how to present its upcoming slate of programming to clients. "We are responding to what clients are asking us for," said Joe Hogan, exec VP-sales at Cartoon Network, TruTV and Adult Swim.
Cartoon Network has seen an increase in viewers interacting with the brand on multiple platforms, Mr. Hogan said. "So advertisers want to sit down and have more in-depth conversations about how they can utilize our platforms," he said. "Advertisers are looking at the kids' market differently and figuring out how to invest dollars taking these shifts into account. They want to have deeper discussions with us."
"This is quality one-on-one time," said Stuart Snyder, president and chief operating officer of animation, young adults and kids media for Turner Broadcasting, parent of Cartoon. "The usual presentation really is just us talking to our audience. Here we are speaking with them," he said.
Cartoon is also getting ahead of the customary kids' upfront, having already started meeting with clients and partners Jan. 21. Nickelodeon will host its upfront on Feb. 26, followed by Disney Channel on March 12.
During the presentations, Cartoon will announce new original and acquired programming that includes the comedy series "Steven Universe," "Uncle Grandpa" and "Clarence" and two action-adventure series based on DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation heroes, "Teen Titans Go!" and "Beware the Batman." It will also bring back "Adventure Time," "Regular Show" and "Annoying Orange," among others.
Oxygen is revamping its upfront strategy this year as well. The women's network, owned by NBCUniversal, which held its upfront in April last year, will be the first out of the gate, hosting its upfront Feb. 5. And it will piggyback off the premiere party for "The Face," which stars supermodels Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova and Coco Rocha.
"It will be a 'Face' event with ancillary messaging," said Jason Klarman, president of Oxygen Media. The party will serve as the beginning to Oxygen's road show. The network has been adopting a year-round strategy of talking with media buyers and advertisers about its programming and platforms. "It's not centered around one huge event," Mr. Klarman said. "Decision-making takes places over an incrementally longer period of time that leads to upfront buys in June. Oxygen will host several smaller events for clients to highlight the value of particular content or platform, he said. "This is a more efficient way to spend money."