Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment
For a second year in a row, the traditional Upfronts week of the major US television networks was held virtually due to the pandemic. Without the classic celebrations and special festivities that used to accompany in-person events, companies such as NBCUniversal, Fox, Discovery, Univision, Disney and WarnerMedia made digital presentations and advanced their main programming news.
On May 17, NBCUniversal kicked off with its virtual presentation, and the event divided up broadly into scripted, unscripted, and sports sections. In addition to focusing on content for linear television and its many channels, which include NBC, USA, Syfy, E!, Bravo and more, the company focused on the shows themselves, regardless of where viewers might have to go to find them. Then, the group talked about its less-than-year-old streaming service Peacock, which NBCU is likely hoping to nudge to top of mind for advertisers.
During its presentation, Fox decided to pay special attention to the fact that both its Fox network and its streaming service Tubi are completely supported by ads, something that differentiates them from other channels and streaming services. Moreover, the company made several references to the fact that Tubi “has no paywall” like other streamers, in addition to throwing some hints at the competition.
After the shocking news of the merger with WarnerMedia, Discovery was unable to dodge the topic during its Upfront. David Zaslav, the company’s CEO, opened the presentation on Tuesday morning with an unplanned part of the original programming, addressing the stunning deal with AT&T, although he stopped short of providing any tangible details about the deal, or how it will impact advertisers. The rest of the presentation focused on the area where Discovery performs best: unscripted content.
Univision Communications presented its 2021-2022 programming lineup in a “Grow with us” themed Upfront presentation to advertisers. This year’s slate features more than 2500 hours of original content across Univision and UniMás broadcast networks. The digital event showcased launches across different genres, including news, scripted series, and festivals/events, among others, and also focused on the company’s AVOD service PrendeTV, which features 50 streaming channels and more than 30.000 hours of content.
Disney’s upfront day was extensive and spanned nearly four hours in total, between the press briefing in the morning and the virtual presentation itself. The company used its time to unveil programming and ad-solutions across its networks and platforms to help brands better reach and more authentically connect with diverse audiences. The group's main message to advertisers was the multiplicity of platforms and the amount of synergy opportunities that all of them present.
Unlike Discovery, during its Wednesday Upfront, WarnerMedia tried to focus on the future of its own media assets, rather than deeping into the breaking news of the merger. Executives at the AT&T-owned media conglomerate put a spotlight on the company’s broad array of media outlets and talent during the Upfront. The showcase, largely pre-taped, featured a musical journey that took viewers on a tour across the company, relying on cameos from renowned talents.