NBC Is Upfront About Its Upfront: It Wants Different, Smaller Talks With Clients

The NBC upfront is under the lights -- a spotlight. Can you see anything?

Making good on its promise to offer up an alternative to the typical upfront presentations process, NBC said it will have client-centric specific meetings, an early April programming presentation, and what it calls, a "spotlight" event -- complete with after-party -- the second week in May.

After-party? Sounds a lot like an upfront presentation to me.

The "spotlight" event on May 12 will highlight all those things that typically get an undercard billing -- cable entertainment, NBC News, mobile and other digital offerings -- with the purpose of letting marketers know all that goes on at NBC Universal.

The Rockettes won't show up. Maybe the sushi rolls will be a bit smaller. Don't look to schmooze with Tina Fey or Steve Carell.  It'll be all business -- and maybe a little purposely, boring.



Client-centric meetings? This isn't exactly new. Media buyers say they always have these get-togethers around upfront times.

The most interesting part of this announcement is the early April programming/scheduling. NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff will, in theory, offer details about a 52-week programming plan.

This works for many marketers, who moan: "I buy one program and I'm barely into my media schedule and the show is cancelled and replaced with something else. You don't know what you are really buying."

Not only that -- but for many networks, there doesn't seem to be a long-term plan. NBC now says it'll have a plan.

Still, we have heard this all before from other networks. Fox, for one, talked up a 52-week schedule. Little has come of it. On the other hand, if NBC makes this a meaningful programming announcement, it'll make some news and please marketers looking for those long-term plans.

One thing that won't change, as has been said by Jeff Zucker, president/CEO of NBC Universal, is the upfront buying process by which NBC gets its $2 billion or so in upfront advertising commitments.  

Still, much of the upfront is about grabbing a lot of money fast -- in a few weeks' time. That's only normal, that's only efficient. Integrated marketing deals are a different kind of horse.

So here's the rub:  While NBC wants to show off all its integrated media marketing possibilities, there is no way complicated deals can be done in and around the typically short upfront selling period of a couple of weeks.

And, to be frank, it's redundant. NBC already had such a gathering, more or less, in January -- which actually was the perfect timing for TV advertisers.

Making integrated media deals means marketers will have to do what they have always done - start conversations way before the mid-May/early June selling period.  Like now -- in February.

Doesn't that kind of bring us back to where we started from?

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