Upfronts / Newfronts

TV Upfronts Try Opening Up to Wider Audiences

E! Will Live-Stream Parent Company's Upfront Red Carpet

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Giuliana Rancic
Giuliana Rancic Credit: Brian Bowen Smith/E!

TV upfront presenters are again trying to draw the interest of audiences beyond the traditional media buyers, advertisers and business press.

For the first time, E! will go "Live from the Red Carpet" outside the NBC Universal Cable Entertainment Upfront on Thursday, with hosts Giuliana Rancic and Ross Matthews, who also host red carpets for major events like the Oscars. Ms. Rancic and Mr. Ross will interview celebrities from across NBC Universal's portfolio of cable networks, which includes E! as well as USA, Bravo and Syfy, as they arrive at the Javits Center in New York City.

The network isn't getting too carried away: The red carpet show will stream live on E! Online and inside the venue but won't appear on TV. And the network didn't do red carpet shows outside competing companies' upfronts. But it's the latest attempt by networks to get TV viewers, not just advertisers, interested in the annual industry events. And a red carpet with celebrities on it is pretty squarely in E!'s space.

"Naturally the E Online audience loves a good red carpet and this promises to be a spectacular one," E! President Suzanne Kolb said in an email. "There are also lots of clients and agencies around the country who can't be in NY, we want to make sure they can enjoy the fun from their desks if not with us."

Last year, Fox began hosting a "FanFront" during the upfront, giving viewers access to red carpet arrivals, musical performances, swag and a sneak peak at the network's new fall lineup. Fans were encouraged to tweet during the event, helping to drive interest in new programming months before it premieres. Fox held another FanFront during its pitch on Monday.

In an increasingly cluttered world of content, allowing audiences to be part of the conversation early seems like a smart move. And social media has helped facilitate this growing interest in the industry events.

At YouTube's NewFront last month, fans lined up at Madison Square Garden in the pouring rain for a chance to meet budding style mogul Bethany Mota, after she sent a Tweet earlier in the afternoon telling fans to meet her there.

And in March, ABC Family abandoned the traditional presentation and instead hosted a "Pretty Little Liars" table read, which aside from media buyers and clients, included their screaming daughters and select fans.

Aside from generating fan interest, these types of events also display the clout of the networks to advertisers. What better way to get advertisers interested than having a line of teenagers snaking around MSG just to hug YouTube's Ms. Mota? At a minimum, E!'s online coverage will remind ad buyers of all the televised red carpets they could be sponsoring with clients.

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