Welcome to the second edition of our special pop-up TV upfronts roundup. We’re bringing you breaking news and some of the best (and worst) of the main week of TV’s dog-and-pony show, curated by Catie Keck, senior TV reporter, and Parker Herren, Ad Age reporter, delivered directly to your inbox. Get it in your email by signing up here.
Upfronts 2022—Disney+ commits to showing fewer ads and Univision’s Speciale brings the moves
Univision brings the moves
Univision hosted its upfront at New York City’s Javits Center on Tuesday, opting for a hybrid prerecorded and in-person event. It was the network’s first upfront since the TelevisaUnivision merger was finalized. During her pitch to advertisers, the company’s President of Sales and Marketing Donna Speciale said “the time is now” for investing in content tailored to Hispanic audiences.
“Here’s one thing I bet you won’t hear all week: Our linear business is on fire. I mean on fire,” she said. “We are where all the linear impressions are going. We didn’t need to turn to streaming to save a struggling TV business. We saw an opportunity.”
In one highlight of the presentation, Speciale became not only a talking head but a talking point. She said her team would “do whatever it takes” to show advertisers Univision will be a “true partner”—evidently even if that means having “a little fun in the process.” The audience was then shown a prerecorded clip of Speciale taking a Latin dance class that saw her flipped, dipped and hoisted above her partner’s head, eliciting a massive response from the live audience.
The room erupted in applause, and afterward Speciale told the crowd, “That was a bucket list. That was a fucking bucket.”
Fox gambles on mostly canned upfront presentation
As marketers thrill at this year’s return to crowded theaters and glitzy showcases, the question of how to best craft an upfront presentation for audiences anticipating a “return to normal” is still up in the air. The challenge for networks has been to figure out the right mix of live and prerecorded elements.
Fox’s upfront, held at Skylight on Vesey in Manhattan late Monday afternoon, was a glaring example of how not to win the hybrid model.
Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling screens, the audience hushed in anticipation as the presentation began, only to be met by an hour-long barrage of prerecorded spokespeople towering above them. This show, it became apparent, was going to be mostly canned. The presentation chugged along with stars including Gordon Ramsay and Mayim Bialik appearing on-screen—even though they were physically present in the building and waiting backstage for the reception.
During the Fox Sports portion of the presentation, a network exec joked to the crowd of advertisers, “From everyone at Fox Sports, I want to say thank you. We know that without you, we would just be Netflix”—a rather surreal self-dunk given that the crowd was watching a video stream.
The first round of applause sounded over an hour into the event, when an actual human being—Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment—finally took the stage to offer closing remarks alongside Susan Sarandon. It was a jarring attempt at a high-wattage finale.
It felt a bit too little, too late, with the bulk of the presentation simply cycling through plans for Fox’s brands—Fox Sports, Fox News, Tubi and Fox Entertainment—with minimal fanfare and a mixed bag of jokes. A source close to the planning of the presentation told Ad Age that Fox began working on its upfront back in November; the heavy reliance on prerecorded video was meant to allow the show to go on even if there was yet another pandemic surge and a fresh round of restrictions on live events.
Related: How Fox is incorporating NFTs into new show ‘Krapopolis’
Do TV schedules really matter anymore?
One question keeps popping up at this year’s upfronts: Do schedules matter? It depends on which network you ask. Fox, for one, has so far declined to share the day and hour slots for its fall slate, while ABC pushed the importance of its fall programming blocks.
As streaming overshadows linear, do advertisers care? The consensus from industry insiders is ... not really.
“As viewers continue to watch the content they love on their terms, on-demand and according to their timeline, the notion of ‘day and date’ has become less relevant,” Dave Sederbaum, executive VP, head of video investment, Dentsu Media US, told Ad Age. “Furthermore, as our investment decisions are focused on specific audiences rather than programs per se, we are looking to reach consumers on their own time, in the right place and at the right time.”
Disney+ will have a reduced ad load and no alcohol and political commercials
Ahead of its upfront Tuesday afternoon, Disney revealed the first details of its streaming platform’s ad-supported tier, announced earlier this year. Disney+ will scale back on screentime for marketers, offering just four minutes of ad time per hour and none for profiles marked for preschool viewers. And to preserve the Mouse House’s family focus on the platform, the company won’t allow alcohol and political ads—or, for that matter, commercials for content from rival studios.
Visit AdAge.com/upfront for full coverage of Disney’s upfront event at New York City’s Basketball City at Pier 36, which was still in progress as we were finalizing today’s newsletter.