Will Glitzy Upfront Presentations Lower The Lights?

Viacom will join other networks taking the low-key approach to upfront presentations.

Who will take this step next?

Last year Discovery Communications, A+E Networks, and AMC Networks nixed the splashy big upfront presentations for smaller meetings and/or dinners.

A year ago, Viacom had five different upfront presentations for all its brands.

And for the upfront TV advertising season starting this spring, it will tone down its approach even further.

This seems like a good strategy for Viacom, especially considering the rocky and highly public sniping between controlling owner National Amusements and former chief executive Philippe Dauman a year ago.

That was only part of the problem.

Many Viacom networks incurred steep drops in viewing over the past couple of years, coupled with more ad stuffing, the dramatic increase in advertising/commercial content.  So in recent years, during a three-hour prime-time block on some Viacom networks, where one would normally see six half-hour shows, the network only aired five half hours.



Now, an intimate dinner setting will feature new Viacom chief executive Bob Bakish and advertising sales chief Sean Moran. They’ll explain all to media agency and marketing executives -- including the logic in focusing on six brands: BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Paramount, a soon-to-be new name/rebrand of the Spike network.

Will other cable groups follow this approach -- perhaps as more complicated issues rise around declining viewership and changing media advertising strategies?

In part. NBCUniversal will repeat its somewhat unusual upfront meeting of a year ago, presenting its more than two dozen networks and programming in one two-hour presentation.

Much of the upfront has always been about showmanship -- teasing potential business executives about big programming to come. Eliminating upfront presentations could soften the aura of “premium” TV programming -- especially against new digital competitors.

And, in that regard, abandoning these big affairs could open the door to more new competitors. Over the last couple of years, digital media companies have begun to participate in their own presentations with the pseudo upfront moniker: Newfronts.

TV networks are still the big draw for national TV advertisers.

But with the possibility of such competitors as Facebook and Google Preferred, the high-end content of Google's YouTube, taking more cable/broadcast ad dollars, does anyone really want to dim the lights?

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