NBC Plans to Stay in Front of the Upfront

Sticking to April for Reveal of TV Programming Schedule

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC said Monday it would continue the practice of informing advertisers and media buyers about its programming schedule in April, a month before most major broadcast networks traditionally make that sort of information available.
Marc Graboff
Marc Graboff Credit: NBC

NBC stirred the pot this spring by announcing a so-called 52-week programming schedule weeks before its rivals. While much of that presentation could change due to unforeseen circumstances, it gave marketers a better sense of what NBC would be putting on its air much earlier in the year, allowing for deeper negotiations about linking to specific programs, plots, characters and events. Not too long after holding the meeting, NBC executives began to crow that they were already negotiating integration deals that could be locked down during the traditional upfront, which typically takes place between mid-May and mid-to-late June.

Now, NBC said it intends to keep the idea going. "Giving our advertising clients an early look at a 52-week schedule is a better way for both of us to gain a competitive edge," Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, said in a statement.

New options for programming
The decision illustrates how the decades-old "upfront" marketplace is starting to change. With networks increasingly running original fare year-round and more new programs between January and May, the TV-network programming grid is in a state of constant flux. One network, News Corp.'s Fox, has made the practice a steady part of its way of doing business, and has reaped rewards by running "American Idol" and no-repeat seasons of "24" after the start of the new year.

While NBC moves the meat of its upfront presentation to April, the Peacock Network will also have to deal with Fox encroaching on its traditional territory next year. NBC has for many years started the traditional mid-May "upfront" presentations, leading off each week with a grand show at Radio City Music Hall. This year, it opted for an event that was largely an expo of the many assets owned by its parent unit, NBC Universal. Fox has already said it intends to hold its upfront meeting in 2009 on a Monday, citing concerns about the onset of Memorial Day weekend.
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