Coronavirus and the Upfronts: Latest Updates on What TV Networks Are Planning

A+E and AMC Networks both scrapped their in-person events scheduled for late March

As the fears over the growing spread of the coronavirus start to impact the TV industry, with two media companies already scrapping their in-person upfront events that were scheduled for later this month, others are moving forward as planned.

For the bigger upfront presentations that are scheduled for mid-May from the major broadcast networks, it appears to be business as usual … for now. The major broadcast networks that present, in what is typically referred to as “Upfront Week,” are still planning for their events to go on, but understand the situation could change if COVID-19 continues to spread.

A Disney rep told TheWrap the company “is moving ahead” with their upfront plans. Disney rolls up ABC into a larger presentation that includes cable networks like ESPN, Freeform, FX and NatGeo. At this point in time, NBCUniversal’s upfront will continue as planned, a person with knowledge of the plans tells TheWrap.

Meanwhile at Fox, the company is still planning to have an upfront but is closely monitoring the matter, an individual with knowledge of the network’s plans tells TheWrap. An individual with knowledge of CBS’ plans told TheWrap that nothing has been canceled as of now. A representative for The CW did not immediately respond to TheWrap.

Additionally, both Univision and WarnerMedia are still going forward with their presentations, which also take place in that same week.

“Our Upfront plans will be guided by the safety and comfort of our partners and employees. While we continue to evaluate and examine our options, at this time we continue to plan for Upfront presentations in May,” a Univision spokesperson told TheWrap.  WarnerMedia and Xandr’s upfront (the two companies are jointly presenting) is still scheduled as of now, an individual with knowledge of the company’s plans told TheWrap.

The TV upfronts are a critical event on the industry calendar, when top advertisers get to see the upcoming slates and fall schedules for the broadcast networks. This is when the bulk of networks’ ad inventory gets earmarked for the coming year and can account for roughly 60% of the networks’ inventory.

A+E Networks is going with a “virtual upfront” presentation that it will conduct the week of March 23, while AMC will go with either smaller, in-person meetings with ad buyers or video teleconferencing. Last week, Fox News canceled its own upfront event that was scheduled for March 24, while CNN still held its event last Thursday.

Tony Maglio and Jennifer Maas contributed to this story.