Does star power matter?
Multiple presentations featured a disclaimer that the show being presented wasn’t what was initially intended, as acting talent pulled out of appearing in the usually starry shows in solidarity with the writers who protested outside of NBCUniversal, Fox and Disney’s shows. In their absence, each over-indexed on personalities from news, sports and unscripted content.
The upfronts weren’t without stars, though—Disney’s featured Serena Williams and Kim Kardashian, NBCU had Reba McEntire and Nick Jonas and Fox brought Gordon Ramsay out more than once. But Warner Bros. Discovery made the decision to only feature executives in person.
The first buyer said the absence did impact clients’ experience throughout the week. “No offense to news anchors or TV executives, but there is definitely more buzz when talent from the networks’ on-air scripted content is speaking first-hand about their shows,” the buyer said.
“The lack of actors made a big impact on the presentations,” agreed the second media buyer. “The glamor was missing…The after-party experience was also less exciting with no talent to mingle and take photos with, so many clients opted for earlier dinners instead, reducing the opportunity to make broader industry connections.”
However, the sentiment wasn’t shared by all. A third media buyer said the celebrity shakeup “leveled the playing field” between the media companies, noting that “isn’t what they want, but for us who have to be objective about the offerings, it may have been a good thing.”
For Netflix, the writers’ strike not only prevented it from featuring talent but also forced the streamer to remove its in-person show from the week altogether. The NYPD expressed concern over the number of protesters who would picket the Paris Theater’s sidewalk entrance, a source with knowledge of the presentation told Ad Age.
Related: Takeaways from Netflix's upfront
Instead, Netflix streamed a pre-recorded, virtual event Wednesday evening, sharing new stats for its advertising tier—5 million monthly active users globally—and new content.
“I was pleasantly surprised by Netflix, which pulled a pretty controversial move going virtual in their first year,” said the second buyer. “Their taped show was packed with good looking content and updates on their evolving sales model.”