Upfronts Go Virtual: Here’s Every Broadcast Network’s Plans

In-person glitzy events were scrapped because of the pandemic, but that won’t stop the sales pitch

Radio City Musical Hall and Lincoln Center will be dark next week as the four-day TV sales pitch known as Upfront Week was scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic. But that doesn’t mean NBC and ABC will ignore advertisers.

In the two months since the pandemic brought Hollywood to a standstill, shutting down pilot production and canceling any in-person gathering larger than your immediate family, the TV industry has sought to figure out just how, and what, to pitch to advertisers to get them to buy ad time for the coming year.

Here’s what we know so far.

NBCUniversal and Telemundo will hold virtual updates on the state of their business next Monday and Tuesday, respectively, the same dates they would’ve been holding their upfront presentations in a normal year.

ViacomCBS, in its first presentation as a newly merged company, will hold the closest thing to an actual upfront the following week with a two-day virtual event. On Monday, May 18, the company will showcase its Viacom cable channels, with CBS and CBS All Access being spotlighted the next day. On May 19, CBS will also unveil its fall programming schedule (the network renewed 18 series earlier this week).

Disney is eschewing any kind of big virtual event and will instead do a “virtual roadshow” that will be a series of short presentations tailored for ad agencies.

WarnerMedia and its ad-tech unit Xandr, which were supposed to jointly present this year, are not doing any sort of major event but like many cable networks will instead hold smaller meetings with clients.

Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch confirmed during the company’s earnings call on Wednesday Fox will have no formal event but is still in constant contact with its ad partners.

Discovery, which had planned to move their upfront into Upfront Week this year, is also holding virtual meetings with clients individually.

The CW’s plans are unclear and the network did not respond to request for comment. We’ll update as soon as we know.

Tim Baysinger

Tim Baysinger

TV Reporter • tim.baysinger@thewrap.com • Twitter: @tim_bays



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