Looming Questions From The Upfronts

The upfronts are back!!!

New York City was bustling, with restaurants, bars and conference rooms filled with networks and clients talking about the TV and streaming market, media strategies, unique opportunities, and getting deals done.

Of course, the Newfronts are still a warm and recent memory, and investment banker Terry Kawaja of Lumascape fame held his annual, must-attend, CEO-only Digital Media Summit on Tuesday.

So everything has been coming together this week.

Of course, “What’s your take on the upfronts?” is the refrain heard in every conversation.

My top takeaways from upfront week? Mine are actually questions looming  as the week comes to a close.

What does the writers’ strike mean for upfront deals and programming this fall? The strike was the elephant in the room at most of the presentations (and a highly visible part of the buyer experience on the sidewalks getting in and out of the halls). A-list show talent was noticeably absent from stages, and some companies handled that lack better than others.



Most expect the strike to hang on through September or October, which raises questions like, will prime time in the fall be rerun-heavy? Will reality shows make a comeback?

Will Linda Yaccarino’s move to Twitter CEO undermine the alt-measurement movement? One of the biggest topics of conversation was the move by NBCUniversal Chair Yaccarino to helm Twitter. The transition of the presentation to Mark Marshall and Mark Lazarus went smoothly, but lots of folks were talking about what the loss of her personal leadership would mean for industry efforts driving changes and challenges to Nielsen’s longtime role atop TV ad measurement.

Many in the industry believe improvements in measurement will continue as TV and streaming come together. For sure, the creation of the Nielsen One product was certainly accelerated by Yaccarino’s pressure. And it's notable that TelevisaUnivision sales head Donna Speciale will be using Nielsen One on deals prior to accreditation.

But what about all the other would-be usurpers to Nielsen’s throne? Most speculate the company will end up more as secondary marketing and media analytics providers rather than as full currencies with their indomitable band leader now focused on a different part of the media market.

What will TV industry consolidation mean for next year’s business? The iceberg below the surface this week was the long-term structure of the TV industry. It’s clear there will be consolidation among some of the companies. The loss of billions of dollars TV companies have run up -- trying to build streamers to challenge Netflix, Amazon and Apple -- is not sustainable. Plus, those streamers are now becoming significant TV ad players, as are streaming device companies like Roku, LG, Samsung and Vizio.

Will we see Warner Bros. Discovery buy Paramount? Or might Comcast try to preempt a deal like that by buying WBD itself? I don’t know the answer, but I’m going to be an excited observer to those kinds of moves as 2023 plays out. What do you think?

1 comment about "Looming Questions From The Upfronts".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 22, 2023 at 8:52 a.m.

    Not to worry, Dave, there is no "alternative measurement" movement  when it comes to establishing a standard for all sellers and buyers to utilize. That will be---as it has been---an "audience" estimate that produces the highest credible number  for the sellers to use to promote ad sales. This will, no doubt, be Nielsen's new "big data" service---barring a monumental screw up---while a few sellers will use the current people meter panel as the base for their audience guarantees ---if the buyers will let them.

    Either way, buyers will act based on very inflated projections of "impressions" or GRPs ---which do not come close to refecting how many people "watch" commercials. The only concerns that both buyers and sellers share are will the findings be stable for low rated shows---the bigger sample deals with that---and whether Nielsen is correctly representing how the various sellers divide the audience pie.

    The other  "alternative  currencies"--actually nothing more than a collection of mainly qualitative refinements  that sellers can pick and choose from as add-ons to Nielsen-based deals willl be used here and there---but not in anything resembling a standardized fashion and not at all in many cases.

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