AT&T-Discovery deal steals upfronts spotlight: Upfronts Download
Welcome to Upfronts Download, Ad Age’s special pop-up TV upfronts roundup where we bring you breaking news and some of the best (and worst) of TV’s (virtual) dog-and-pony show, curated by Jeanine Poggi, assistant managing editor. Get it in your email by signing up here.
The usual fanfair of the upfronts will be somewhat muted as once again we watch presentations from our home offices and dining room tables. Shrimp cocktails have been replaced by mailers filled with caloric treats, and in order to get the same effect of braving the packed steps of the Beacon Theatre, I will walk down the stairs behind my children, resisting the urge to push them out of my way.
AT&T and Discovery announced a deal combining their media assets just hours before the upfronts kicked off, certainly diverting attention from the new programming and ad products that are set to be unveiled this week. For advertisers, the combination of WarnerMedia, whose networks include HBO, TNT and TBS, among others, with Discovery's portoflio like Food Network and HGTV, represent a new powerhouse in media. The combined entities will account for 24% of all linear inventory available in the marketplace, says Dave Morgan, CEO, Simulmedia. While the consolidation creates even fewer options for media buyers in the TV space, it "will be competitive on the high-quality content scale, and I think that is compelling right now," says Lou Paskalis, chairman of the MMA Global Media and Data board. Read more on how the AT&T-Discovery deal is poised to impact advertisers.
Diversity the new upfront currency
Multicultural marketing opportunities will be central to the pitches from TV network groups when they host their (virtual) upfront presentations this week, ranging from how audience-targeting products can help brands better reach Black and Hispanic consumers to promoting access to research on diverse audiences to inform creative.
This year’s upfront ad haggle will have a fresh nuance. Amid media agencies trying to negotiate more-favorable pricing and incorporate more-robust data and audience-targeting to their ad buys, they will also be looking to find content and media properties that are inclusive and representative of brands’ consumer bases, and help marketers meet diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Here’s a look at how media behemoths are planning to rise to the challenge.
While the lions share of the $20 billion committed during the upfronts will continue to go to the stalwarts, smaller networks that target specific communities are commanding a louder voice than ever before during the 2021 upfront season. Here are five multicultural networks looking to take a bigger slice of the $20 billion in upfront ad commitments.
I can just see the NBCUniversal execs wringing their hands when they saw the AT&T-Discovery deal was made official just hours before they kicked off upfront week with their virtual presentation.
The session was hosted by NBCU’s top talent, with the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Andy Cohen and Hoda Kotb taking agencies and their clients through the lineup for next season.
Talent will be central to NBCU’s pitch to the ad world, the Wall Street Journal reports, with the Peacock looking to serve as a power broker of sorts between celebrities and brands.
To be sure, NBCU paraded out new deals with big-named stars like Meghan Trainor, who will host “Top Chef Family;” Kevin Hart, who will host a new talk show; and Jonas Brothers, which will be featured in an Olympics special. NBCU also announced it renewed “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” for five years.
Elsewhere Disney-owned Hulu revealed a deal with The Beatles’ Paul McCartney for an original documentary music series event.
How is the TV industry responding to the streaming wars? On May 24 and May 25 hear from ad sales leaders, agency executives and top brands on the state of the TV ad marketplace and how streaming is poised to reinvent the $20 billion upfront marketplace. RSVP here.
No laughing matter
NBC is approaching the new fall season by prioritizing programming it believes will attract the most live viewing, and—at least in the first half of the year—the big bet is on dramas. The broadcaster will not air any comedies in the fall, instead focusing on “dramas we know the audience will show up for,” says Susan Rovner, chairman, entertainment content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. This includes two nights dedicated to Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” and “Law & Order” franchises.
This is goodbye
NBC’s biggest scripted hit “This Is Us” will sing its swan song midseason with its sixth and final season. The broadcaster will also see the end of Ellen DeGeneres’ long-running afternoon talk show.
Elsewhere, ABC will say goodbye to “Black-ish” after the 2021-2022 season and has canceled its spin-off “Mixed-ish,” as well as freshman sitcom “Call Your Mother” and the comedy “American Housewife.” CBS canceled legal drama “All Rise” and “The Unicorn” and is moving “Clarice” and “Seal Team” to Paramount+. Here's a complete look at which shows will return and which ones got axed, from Entertainment Weekly.
Fox boasted its commitment to ad-supported content during its virtual upfront presentation to the marketplace on Monday afternoon. It’s perhaps an obvious and odd thing to point out in a pitch to ad agencies and brands during a week dedicated to that very topic, but at a time where more content lives on non-ad supported platforms, Fox leaned heavily into its strategy of being 100% ad-supported.
“Fox is bringing you in, not cutting you out,” said Charlie Collier, CEO, Fox Entertainment. To prove just how much Fox loves advertising, Collier cut to an “ad break” spoofing a pharma commercial. “Does the thought of another ad-free streamer behind a paywall give you the willies? ... If so, you’re probably suffering from Max Plus Syndrome, a condition plaguing many ad buyers today.”
NFTs come to the upfronts
Fox also says its upcoming animated show “Krapopolis,” created by Dan Harmon, will be the first series “curated entirely on the blockchain.” On Monday, Fox revealed new details about the series, and one of the attractions is its connection to the blockchain and NFT technology. Fox also announced Blockchain Creative Labs, an NFT-focused unit.
Coming off a year of uncertainty around live sports, the sports marketplace is expected to move quickly during this year’s negotiations, predicts Seth Winter, exec VP, sports sales, Fox Sports. Speaking ahead of Fox Sports’ virtual upfront pitch to advertisers on Friday, Winter says that for the first time in more than a decade the sports marketplace has already started deal making. Typically, deals for ad buys in sports programming don’t usually get started until after Memorial Day, and in some cases, later in June. But Winter says there’s a sense of urgency from brands because of the sharp increase in pricing in the sports marketplace in the fourth quarter, coupled with the paucity of impressions available. He points to college football as the network’s biggest opportunity and how the network was able to secure more than half of the National Football League games it requested to air.
Every night of the week
The CW, which will not stream a formal presentation this year, announced last week that it will air programming every night of the week, adding Saturday nights to its schedule. This will increase the amount of primetime programming that advertisers can purchase to 14 hours.
The CW also announced it will revive the iconic family competition show “Legends of the Hidden Temple.” But this version will have a new, grown-up twist.
That does it for today’s Upfronts Download. Thanks for reading and we'll be back with another edition tomorrow.
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