With all due respect to its august history and reputation, Carnegie Hall is a 19th-century relic that is hardly a suitable environment for a modern, sprawling content-creation company to pitch its wares.
Opened 131 years ago in 1891, the place is a mausoleum. When you go in there, you half expect it to be lit by gaslight.
An internal memo that was made public earlier this week announcing that Paramount Global is ditching Carnegie Hall as an upfront venue made no mention of this particular reason for the company's decision to go elsewhere.
“Elsewhere,” however, does not refer to a new, 21st-century venue, but a plan to put on a series of “intimate gatherings in April for each of our major agency partners and their clients.” More on this later.
Whether this was part of Paramount Global's thinking or not, the company's withdrawal from Carnegie Hall was long overdue.
The 2,790-seat venue -- Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium -- had been the traditional home of CBS Upfront presentations at least since the mid-’90s, although none of the stories in the trade press this week had an exact tally of the number of years the event had been held there up through last spring.
The start of them may have coincided with the arrival of Les Moonves as president of CBS Entertainment in 1995 (later to become the company's chairman).
Moonves had stage presence to spare, and he became something of a star at the CBS Upfronts held there annually on the Wednesday of Network Upfront Week.
In those days, Carnegie Hall felt like just the right place for CBS -- a traditional venue for a traditional TV company. But today, CBS is just another cog in a big machine.
Paramount Global is the owner and operator of multiple platforms and businesses set up for the production and international distribution of content on a grand scale -- network television (CBS), sports, cable TV, streaming, online, and worldwide syndication and licensing of first-run and off-network content to broadcast stations, cable networks and streaming services.
At some point in the last few years -- possibly while watching Stephen Colbert cavort in old-fashioned top hat and tails on the Carnegie Hall stage at the 2017 CBS Upfront (above photo) -- it occurred to me for the first time that Carnegie Hall was sending the wrong message about CBS.
The old barn was beginning to give off a musty air, giving the impression that CBS was not advancing into the 21st-century modern era, but instead wallowing in its past glory in the 20th.
As a 21st-century international media and content company in competition with the other giants, Paramount Global's decision to take its product to market in a series of “intimate” meetings seems like a lost opportunity.
There is nothing wrong with meeting with people face to face in smaller groups and venues. But Paramount Global and its super-scale content competitors are not widget manufacturers.
They are in show business on a world stage.
Producing a spectacular, razzle-dazzle showcase for their content and content brands is a great way to impress their “agency partners and clients” and keep them entertained.