TV’s Upfront Week Tilts at Normal; NBCU Will Present on May 17

Brian Steinberg
·2-min read

It won’t have the bowls of shrimp or free drinks, but TV’s annual week of upfront presentations will look a little more like its pre-pandemic norm.

NBCU intends to kick off the industry’s usual week of presentations May 17 with a virtual event that will feature looks at scripted and unscripted originals, sports, news, and live events, and include cameos from actors and senior executives from across the company. NBCU, which last year aired a “30 Rock” reunion special that doubled as a preview of its program schedule ), said its 2021 event “will take place on the sets of many of the biggest shows in premium video. ”

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Many of the company’s competitors, including ViacomCBS, Disney, Fox, Discovery and WarnerMedia, are expected to mount similar efforts. The CW, jointly owned by ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia, will wait until the following week to deliver information about its fall schedule on May 25. Executives are already holding individual meetings with advertisers and media buyers, according to a person familiar with the matter. The network, which typically presents last during a traditional week, wants to see how its plans are received, and will reassess in 2022 whether it should hold a more traditional presentation.

Last year’s presentations were delayed by the pandemic as well as confusion in the advertising marketplace due to cancellation of sporting events and original dramas and comedies.

The nation’s big media agencies are projecting increases in ad spending for 2021, citing a nation eager to move on from the pandemic – and hikes in activity from some of the businesses most affected by it, like movie studios and travel advertisers. Interpublic Group’s Magna, a large media buying unit, recently projected that overall U.S. ad sales would rise 6.4% to $240 billion in 2021, with national TV advertising set to increase 3.4%.

What may slow things down, however, are new complexities. Many of the big media companies are eager to sell ad inventory on new streaming services like Peacock, Tubi, HBO Max and Paramount Plus. They want to do so with hefty rates of increase attached, and it’s not clear whether Madison Avenue will consent to those conditions, even as audiences continue their move away from traditional TV.

(above, pictured: Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s chairman of ad sales and partnerships)

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