TV Upfront

Upfronts download: the 'Roseanne' effect at ABC, ESPN's new president and a look at 'New Fox'

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Roseanne Barr as ABC and Freeform prepare to present their new lineups for the 2018-2019 season to the advertising and media communities at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Roseanne Barr as ABC and Freeform prepare to present their new lineups for the 2018-2019 season to the advertising and media communities at Lincoln Center in New York City. Credit: ABC/Jeff Neira

Welcome to our special pop-up TV upfronts newsletter. All this week I'll be nothing but an upfront girl living in an upfront world. Each day in place of our usual Media Buzz newsletter, we'll bring you breaking news about the upfronts and some of the best (and worst) of TV's dog-and-pony show. Get it in your inbox by signing up for the Media Buzz email newsletter right here—we're taking it over for the upfronts.

All about 'Roseanne'

Unsurprisingly, ABC will bring its springtime hit "Roseanne" back in the fall next season in an effort to boost the network's ratings early. The alphabet's plans, which it announced Tuesday morning, include keeping TGIT intact with Shonda Rhimes programming and leaving freshman success "The Good Doctor" at 10 p.m. on Monday nights.

Some highlights from the press call with ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey:

ABC is bringing back its TGIF "Thank God It's Funny" comedy block on Fridays. ABC had most recently been pushing Friday comedies since 2012, when it picked up "Last Man Standing" (now canceled but headed for a Fox revival). Last year ABC went in a different direction, populating the night with genre shows like "Once Upon a Time" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."

While there's been chatter that next season of "Modern Family" will be its last, there's been no decision made on the future of the comedy.

ABC is in conversations with "Black-ish" creator Kenya Barris on additional projects despite some friction this year on an un-aired episode of the series.

ABC will make its pitch to advertisers at Lincoln Center on Tuesday afternoon.

Freeform will be part of ABC's upfront presentation for the first time this year. The network, formerly known as ABC Family (and before that Fox Family, the Family Channel and the Christian Broadcast Network), picked up a new series from Barris, who also created Freeform's "Grown-ish." It's described as a sitcom exploring friendship, identity, race and class. And all of those PLL fans will have something to cheer about with a new version of the series called "Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists."

ESPN's new president

The "puckish" ESPN journalist Kenny Mayne stepped on the network's introduction of its new president, Jimmy Pitaro, at ESPN's upfronts pitch Tuesday morning, Anthony Crupi writes. It was all part of Mayne's annual comedy bit for ad buyers, of course.

"All the money deals run through me now," Mayne announced, before rattling off some of the highlights of his résumé to the disbelieving crowd. "You don't think I can handle this responsibility? I went to Wenatchee Valley Community College! I went to UNLV, which is sort of the Harvard of the west."

New Fox

What will New Fox look like? Well we got a taste on Monday night at the network's upfront pitch. We learned New Fox—as everyone calls the network that will exist after Disney (or Comcast) snaps up most of its parent but spins off broadcaster itself—will rely heavily on sports and renew its emphasis on reality programming. And without the obligation of having to pick up shows from its parent-owned studio (because it won't have one), New Fox will be able to focus on broader entertainment series that play well in the U.S. without having to worry about international syndication potential.

There was little word of new Fox programming, but you can watch its handful of coming-soon trailers here.

Fox's after-party at Central Park's Wollman Rink was more lively than usual as Jamie Foxx, host of the network's "Beat Shazam," MC-ed the party, dancing with ad buyers and advertisers. Fox Networks Group's head of ad sales, Joe Marchese, jumped into the circle, looking to redeem himself from some awkward dancing with Foxx earlier in the day on stage at the Beacon Theatre.

For his part, Marchese formally announced FNG's plans to introduce so-called Jaz pods, which stands for "just a and z" (referring to the first and last positions in an ad break) for some of its networks' programming. The one-minute commercial breaks are designed to help reduce ad clutter and make the TV experience more akin to streaming rivals. One place this will occur is in FX's "The Weekly," which is based on the popular New York Times podcast "The Daily."

FX has certainly become a breeding ground for innovation. We spoke with CEO John Landgraf about how the basic cable channel is evolving for a new TV era where in which FX will also likely be under new management. "Atlanta" creator Donald Glover weighed in on what keeps him at FX and why he isn't in the business of making "niche shit."

In other industry news:

Media buying veteran Kris Magel has resigned from Initiative, a spokesman for the shop has confirmed.

Variety spoke with Greg Berlanti, who set a new record with 14 series to be on at once, counting four new ones—"Doom Patrol" for DC's forthcoming streaming service, "All-American" for the CW and CBS' "God Friended Me" and "The Red Line."

Univision took its upfront downtown on Monday, with an experiential presentation that was meant to immerse ad buyers and their clients in the network's content. "Good evening and welcome to Tribeca," Chief Revenue Officer Tonia O'Connor told the crowd, Deadline reports. "Forget the theater district. We're upfronting in the hip and fun district, which is like the experience we're giving you today. The upfronts have been done the same way for the past 50 years. It's time for some disruption."

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