Upfronts Underwhelm: Buyers See Little Pizzazz, No Recognizable Hits

by , May 22, 2006, 7:45 AM
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In the new age of digital platform TV upfronts, finding a network show in this year's upfront program presentations has been difficult--strictly a less glitzy, analog affair.

"There was no wow factor this year," said Doug Seay, senior vice president of national broadcast for Starcom MediaVest Group.

NBC's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," from "West Wing"'s Aaron Sorkin, got some earlier buzz--all before the network's presentation on Monday. But when NBC finally got around to showing clips of the show, the pizazz wasn't there for media buyers--not like UPN's "Everybody Hates Chris" a year earlier.

"The clips of that show were just okay," said one veteran buyer. NBC executives and others who saw the pilot swore that the entire first episode was good.

Others said NBC's half-hour comedy--also about an "SNL"-type of show, "30 Rock" from real "SNL" writer Tina Fey--was actually a better bet at least in the comedy field. "'30 Rock' was the only comedy with real laughs," said Stacey Lynn Koerner, who is the head of a consumer behavior research unit for Interpublic Media.

Koerner also liked Fox's "Justice"--a show from Jerry Bruckheimer about high-profile cases and how they are tried in the media--and ABC's "The Nine," about what happens to hostages' lives following a brutal bank robbery. Koerner says these programs are interesting conceptually, but adds that she'll need to do what all media executives do this time of year--see full pilots to get a better determination.

Stacey Shepatin, director of national broadcast at Hill Holliday in Boston, also felt "The Nine" was worthwhile, as well as the new Fox comedy "'Til Death" starring Brad Garrett--which focuses on the trials of an older married couple and a young married couple.

Overall, Seay believes that for a network point of view, ABC did the best. "I was impressed--it was relatively painless." Seay believes there was just enough entertainment value and real business information at ABC.

But other networks didn't get such high marks--especially at Fox. "Peter Liguori, [president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting] was great last year," said Seay. "This year he didn't connect."

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