TV Upfront

Upfronts download: Turner targets Nielsen, Moonves skips breakfast and a millennial explains all

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Donna Speciale, President of Turner Ad Sales, arriving at the Turner upfronts at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
Donna Speciale, President of Turner Ad Sales, arriving at the Turner upfronts at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Credit: Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Turner

Turner goes to town on Nielsen

"When you buy on TV, you only get a fraction of our audience," Turner Ad Sales President Donna Speciale told the audience at Turner's upfronts pitch Wednesday morning, Anthony Crupi reports. "When we transact on partial viewing, we all lose."

Speciale was taking aim at TV's relentlessly falling traditional Nielsen ratings and trying to convince ad buyers in the audience that they would be better off recognizing the viewing that takes place beyond the living-room TV.

In a memo before the presentation, Turner President David Levy issued an even stronger rebuke to the Nielsen regime. "We are in a new era of media and it's time to retire the Nielsen television metric," Levy wrote. "While it undoubtedly served its purpose, it no longer fully captures how to successfully measure an audience in today's landscape."

"The time is now—this upfront—for advertisers to change how they think about the value of their marketing!"

But don't worry, it wasn't all about metrics. Conan O'Brien, Shaquille O'Neal and Anderson Cooper got on stage together set the tone for much of the day. "I glow in the dark like a sea anemone," Anderson Cooper said when he got on stage with Conan O'Brien and Shaquille O'Neal.

"Why are we out here?" O'Brien wondered, before referring to the newsman as "the best dressed White Walker on 'Game of Thrones.'"

No lox with Les

It's become tradition for CBS CEO Leslie Moonves to break bread with reporters the morning of the company's upfront presentation. Moonves usually takes the opportunity to poke fun at rival TV channels and tout CBS' dominance. But this year Moonves was a no-show as the company geared up for a fight in court with Shari Redstone.

"Les sends his regards," said Kelly Kahl, president of entertainment at CBS. "But the number of questions he couldn't answer outnumber the ones he could, so he thought it was a good idea to sit this one out."

CBS will make its pitch to advertisers today at Carnegie Hall at the same time it is battling in court with Redstone and her National Amusements, the controlling stakeholder in the company. CBS filed a lawsuit earlier this week to stop Redstone from interfering in a meeting happening later this week that could dilute her voting interest in CBS. Redstone has made it clear that she wants to see a merger between CBS and Viacom.

The biggest change to CBS' 2018-19 schedule is on Monday night, where it has revamped its entire lineup. And the highly anticipated reboot of "Murphy Brown" will join the Thursday-night comedy block of "The Big Bang Theory," "Young Sheldon" and "Mom."

Wednesday afternoon, Moonves took the stage at the CBS upfronts pitch, receiving thunderous applause.

Marketing speak

We caught up with Google's senior marketing director Joshua Spanier to discuss what he is really looking to get out of the TV upfronts -- and, after one of them, whether he got it. Spanier's biggest concern is the influx of reboots in recent years, which typically appeal to an older audience than marketers want.

Kimmel show

While "Roseanne" was No. 1 this season – a fact that ABC was happy to remind anyone who would listen – Jimmy Kimmel stole the show at the alphabet network's upfronts presentation on Tuesday afternoon. The late-night host poked fun at Fox's new ad formats, the decline in TV ratings and influx in the reboot of old series. The audience howled through his entire set, which included my favorite joke (simply because it included my favorite show):

"Our company is in the midst of negotiations to buy Fox. It seemed like a done deal, and then last week, Comcast, like the surprise ex-boyfriend who shows up on 'The Bachelorette' right before she gets engaged, shows up and weasels its way into our business. We got peacock-blocked, is what happened."

Of course, Roseanne Barr was also on hand, kicking off the show with a rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and introducing Disney Media Networks co-chair and president of Disney-ABC TV Group Ben Sherwood: "Here's the guy who really writes all of my tweets."

ABC was the most aggressive of the three networks that have presented so far in its pickup of new programming. Here's a look at some of its new series.

New Fox, some of the same bosses

Amid the upfronts news, Fox revealed its executives for "New Fox" once the Walt Disney deal is closed. Lachlan Murdoch will serve as chairman and chief executive and Rupert Murdoch will be co-chairman of the new company. John Nallen, currently chief financial officer, will become chief operating officer. Absent from the list is Murdoch's other son James Murdoch. It has been reported that he is looking to leave Fox once the deal is done.

Upfronts for young people

Recode views the TV upfronts through the eyes of a millennial: "The women's Olympic ice hockey team rose out of the floor. I actually watched the Olympics (online!) so I knew their reason for being there, but didn't understand why they were coming out of the floor."

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