Upfront TV Presentations Facing Weak Engagement And ROI - Should They Be Cancelled?

Are the sometimes entertaining TV upfront events now a cancelled TV series?

Paramount Global's unilateral decision to abandon the glitzy, party-like yearly TV programming events that nearly all major TV network groups traditionally run may seem frivolous to some.

Others think these types of upfront presentations are still key marketing pieces of any TV network promotion, providing high-profile entertainment value that is always part of putting on a “show.”

But perhaps all that is beside the point. While we know it's a show, it's also a business.

The fact that Paramount Global decided some six months before the upfronts are set to commence to pull the plug says a lot. Some TV-media executives believe upfront presentations are past their usefulness -- especially in a cord-cutting, streaming world.



Mind you, Paramount's decision comes just days after NBCUniversal said it would be returning to Radio City Music Hall for its standard upfront presentation.

After a couple of years of pandemic-disrupted TV business environment, where suspended live upfront events gave way to modest virtual video presentations by  advertising/media executives, some executives wanted a return to “normal” business times. We get that.

But at the same time, the ever-weakening linear TV network viewer usage is an issue.

How can we now market linear TV networks when they still brings in hefty TV advertising business to companies -- as well as providing big-time advertising platforms support for company-owned streaming apps.

Over the past few years, in an adjustment to a new marketplace, many multi-TV network-based TV companies would try to cram all their wide-ranging TV and media efforts into a two-hour upfront event --- broadcast TV networks, cable TV networks, sports and news content, and associated digital media efforts.

But sometimes their "fringe" media business would get just five minutes of time at the upfront -- not nearly enough to sell the merits of the business.

To a great extent, this was why new Paramount Global advertising chief John Halley decided to opt for smaller, media agency and/or client-specific meetings to replace the upfront TV presentations.

This is not entirely new. From time to time, some cable TV network groups opted to go in the same direction -- abandoning upfronts and shifting resources to small meetings.

Upfront presentations were never about hard-core pricing and inventory specifics. Media executives would get further details in meetings following the event and later on, for their media plans when the actual upfront advertising market was underway.

In that regard, if we continue to use entertainment to curry favor for marketing and media business executives, maybe we just need a new entertaining spin.

After all, aren't those business pros also TV, movie, and media consumers? 

1 comment about "Upfront TV Presentations Facing Weak Engagement And ROI - Should They Be Cancelled?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 23, 2022 at 10:37 a.m.

    Wayne, the upfront presentations and attendant parties are a way to make national TV buying more attractive---aka "fun" ---for the national TV time buyers, advertiser and agency media directors, senior media planners, etc. No other medium has this kind of promotional thing going for it and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a valuable sales promotional ploy not only for the individual players but for "network TV" itself ----which is thus positioned as the big time media option.

    Needless to say, there are reasonable limits on the amounts to be spent on the upfront presentations/parties, etc. but I believe that they will remain---including the new streaming services now being offered by the TV folks and also new ventures by others---YouTube, Amazon, etc. as they develop. So look for more of these galas---but, perhaps, less of the glamour and more emphasis on the sell. If they keep it  "fun" it should still work for them.

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