Broadcast Takes a Back Seat at the 2019 Upfronts

Variety | 5/21/2019 | Michael Schneider
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This may be remembered as TV’s gap year — a transitional period between the way things used to be and the way they’re going to be. That was clearly evident last week at the network upfront presentations, the annual event where execs tout their new wares to advertisers.

There was something different about this year’s proceedings, as many of the media conglomerates tried to have it two ways: Networks still matter, they said, but “reach” (one of the year’s buzzwords) matters more — individual networks be damned. However, for the congloms to achieve enough scale as their nascent streaming businesses grow, the content produced for those legacy-network brands is key.

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You’d forgive media buyers for feeling a bit of whiplash after a week of hearing both messages simultaneously.

That’s why another buzzword of these upfronts was “multiplatform.” As old and new media collide, executives find themselves promoting the traditional benefits of linear broadcast and cable TV, while also admitting that they’re shifting many of their eggs into the streaming basket. It made for a rather low-key affair for the broadcast networks that are usually front and center at these events.

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“That’s what the advertisers want to hear; that’s where most of the money gets spent,” says CBS chief content officer David Nevins. “It seems like the other guys are sort of relegating their broadcast networks [to] ‘We’re part of a megalith.’”

But media buyers and industry leaders couldn’t help feeling the diminished importance of individual networks as they watched these presentations. It took an hour and a half into Disney’s event to finally get to ABC’s turn. NBCU’s upfront similarly allotted as much time to many of its cable properties as it did to the Peacock network, making NBC almost an afterthought. And WarnerMedia lumped TNT, TBS and TruTV together, reflecting the fact that they’re...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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