What Happened at Upfronts and NewFronts 2022?

May 24, 2022

After three years away, television and media’s biggest event of the year for advertisers, AKA upfronts, returned to New York. Across famous venues such as Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall, music and mayhem were everywhere. Back when they were the broadcast upfronts, the presentations lasted three hours or more, as networks deep-dived into each new pilot. While the event is back, the way media companies appeal to advertisers has changed.

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Here are some of the highlights…

​​Warner Bros. Discovery presented its first upfront

During Discovery’s upfront event last year, CEO David Zaslav said the company will stand “should-to-shoulder” with broadcasters. In its first upfront since the company merged with WarnerMedia, Warner Bros. Discovery is sending the same message. Additionally, Zaslav announced that Discovery reachers more 25-54-year-old viewers than any of the four major networks. And has a bigger audience among 25-54 than any of the four broadcast networks. (Deadline)

Jon Steinlauf, Warner Bros. Discovery U.S. ad sales chief, was on hand to deliver some classic upfront facts and figures, including the news that 80% of HBO Max and Discovery streaming users watch on a TV set and more than 50% of them are cord-cutters

NBCUniversal put on-the-ground entertainment first

NBCUniversal didn’t focus on programming either — but instead had Miley Cyrus perform “Wrecking Ball” and Kelly Clarkson perform “Queen of the Night,” while Andy Cohen and dozens of “Bravolebrities” lead a giant BravoCon dance number.

According to Variety, Susan Rovner, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming chairman of entertainment content, discussed the company’s move to a year-round development process. After a clip celebrating the final episode of “This Is Us,” which aired last night, “Dancing With Myself” hosts Shakira and Nick Jonas came out to talk about their new show.

Disney went all-in on advertising

During his first upfront, Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek celebrated the company’s artist relationships and vast suite of intellectual property over the brands associated with them. The crowd inside the Basketball City auditorium on Manhattan’s Lower East Side viewed a slideshow of images from across Disney’s portfolio: Disney+, Disney films, Disney parks, ESPN, Hulu, FX, and ABC.
Disney+ announced a cheaper ad-supported tier and is sticking to its family-friendly content. Carefully selected teasers included Disenchanted, Hocus Pocus 2, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
In the end, it was a wild two hours. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steve Martin, Samuel L. Jackson, Ellen Pompeo, Kumail Nanjiani, Claire Danes and Amy Schumer, posing as the lost Kardashian sister, were all on stage to promote upcoming programming. Johnson was there to announce that the XFL and Disney have struck a global rights deal that will see all XFL regular season and playoff games running on ESPN, ABC, and recent addition, FX. 

Fox took a non-traditional approach to upfronts

Throughout last week, there were very few actual trailers or promos of new shows. In fact, Fox didn’t even have a schedule ready to share. The company changed venues from the Beacon Theatre to the Skylight on Vesey in New York for its May 16 presentation, but the in-person event mainly consisted of marketers watching a pre-recorded video. Though the network’s presentations did push new and returning content, including dramas and comedies, from Fox Sports, Fox News Media, Tubi, and Fox Entertainment.

Paramount focused on the news

Not often is TV news the centerpiece of a major upfront, but the 2022 Paramount event was certainly unique. Jo Ann Ross, longtime CBS ad sales chief, introduced an event that was designed to run an hour playing off CBS’ signature newsmagazine 60 Minutes. (In reality, it ran for about an hour and 20 minutes).

60 Minutes regularly ranks as the most-watched telecast on television. And Paramount’s content reaches half of all Americans 13 and older. Plus, there are more than 80 million monthly full-episode viewers across platforms. Paramount+ is on track to have 100 million subscribers by 2024. 

Comedian Nicole Byer was the real winner of the week though. The host of TBS’ “Wipeout” and Netflix’s “Nailed It,” appeared on stage at the NBCU, Warner Bros Discovery, and Paramount Global upfronts. She’s on so many shows on so many platforms that Byer could have also been the face of Netflix upfronts, had there been one.

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