TV Upfronts: Two Jimmys, One Party -- And Little Excitement

Now late-night TV will have two Jimmys -- Kimmel and Fallon. Shouldn't all networks have one?  

They should -- especially if they can offer up these sharp observations on the TV business of advertising:

"TVs are bigger than ever, kids are fatter than ever, and gas has never been more expensive.  We have the whole country on their couches right now. If we can't sell them stuff, we should all be ashamed of ourselves."

That was Jimmy Kimmel at the ABC event. I'm sure Jimmy Fallon of NBC will have similar advertising observations starting in 2009. In nervous advertising markets like the one we are currently in, it's the best way to keep media executives from getting too worried.

It's been a strange upfrontpresentation season so far (Fox takes the stage today), just as journalists (including MediaPost ) predicted. Weirdly, the first real, recognizable upfront party came on Tuesday night. It wasn't NBC, ABC, or CBS.  

The first party came from the CW -- the network that has seen its ratings tumble by an eye-opening 20% this past year. (The bash took place after ABC was finished nearby and Kimmel jibed ABC, wanting to offer thanks for hosting its after-party.)

What does this all mean?  Everything is upside down. The big networks backed out of their big upfront presentations efforts for a combination of reasons --  fewer new shows (because of the writers' strike), a weakening economy, and some silent disgust from media buyers in response to the excessiveness of previous presentations.

What remains are some mixed messages: We had the CW network, which two years ago appropriately picked the color green for its brand at launch. Now it's the original "green" network.  ABC was all business - with little excitement except for Kimmel ("Here at ABC we are excited at both our new shows.").  

NBC went strange offering up an "experience" -- a bunch of trade-show like exhibits including a somewhat superfluous demonstration of HD TV. CBS gamely tried to leave in some pizzazz all wrapped around its non-network TV offerings.

Next year networks need to pick a clearer direction: Make it loud, turn it off, or hire a Jimmy



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