NATPE Miami’s session, “Creating Deals After The Down Upfront” features leading distributor Ira Bernstein and TV comedian Jay Leno as they explain the elements that were considered while negotiating a deal and/or launching a show amid the pandemic.


On the fourth day of NATPE Miami 2021’s presentations, the event showcased its session  “Creating Deals After The Down Upfront,” which featured perspectives from the Co-President of Debmar-Mercury Ira Bernstein described how networks and local stations create opportunities for affordable content. The two-part series also featured American Comedian, Jay Leno and his counterparts as they discussed the idea for Leno’s new game show, “You Bet Your Life,” which was sold in 85% of the US ahead of its Fall debut. 

Bernstein initiated the discussion with a breakdown of the areas of concern for media experts through the various stages of the pandemic, explaining that the 2nd quarter of 2020 was the most difficult for the media industry, but it began to rebound as it learned to adapt through the 3rd quarter. An example he provided of a production that came up with a way to follow through with the production during this period was that of “Family Feud,” distributed by Debmar-Mercury. Fremantle filmed the entire season in 8-10 weeks in Atlanta despite shutdown restrictions. 

The distributor went on to explain that shortly after the pandemic was declared, many productions began working remotely, leading to less compelling productions and lower ratings. Despite safety protocol costs of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, shows such as “The Wendy’s Show” returned to studios following strict safety protocols. Another aspect that affected the networks included the increase in consumption of news, resulting from unprecedented political events and the Covid-19 vaccine, amid other occurrences. As a result of consumers’ increased interest in news, viewership habits shifted, decreasing entertaining day-time shows.

In terms of advertising, Bernstein explains that sales have rebounded, but not completely. Though advertising, in general, took a hit amid the pandemic, local ads have had more of a challenge as they have sufficient attraction to cover their costs, while national ad demand is surging. The media expert believes that TV station advertising leads to success for brands as most reach a 30% margin in revenue. His prediction for the TV business is that despite growing streaming platforms, linear channels still reach 95-98% of its audience, and with classic day-time shows like “Dr. Phil,” “The Wendy Show,” among others, will retain audiences as the media continues to fragment. As the streaming industry grows, he believes there isn’t enough content to fill all of the platforms, which can potentially serve as an advantage for TV as certain competitors have exited to solely work on streaming, and advertisers will seek additional slots they wouldn’t find on streaming platforms.

Leno, joined by Co-Host Kevin Eubanks and Producers Tom Werner and David Hurwitz, explained that the pandemic is the perfect period for his game show “You Bet Your Life” to air as an increasing number of consumers are at home seeking comedy and entertainment. Before producing the remake, Leno spent time analyzing other markets and implementing a digital plan. The set where it was produced is described as high-end, with a live studio audience. The show will consist of 180 episodes, which will be shot this summer.