• Weighing the Numbers Game
    For media agencies, preparing for the upfronts used to be fairly straightforward: Watch the new shows, study the ratings for the old ones, review some demographics and place your bets. Win some, lose some, wash, rinse, repeat.  Flash forward to 2013, when buyers have the option of arming themselves with a mountain of data that makes Nielsen ratings look like the score of a ping-pong match. There’s C3, C7, set-top, single-source, social media, commercial ratings — the list goes on and on. And …
  • Negotiating a New Frontier
    We hear about them more and more these days — those cord-cutters who have set sail from the expensive docks of traditional television and are waving from the shores of online video, happy, free, untethered, pockets heavy with saved money. The consumers who do opt to forgo the traditional TV model present a problem for content creators — namely, how to make money — or at least take some from television’s 70 billion-dollar-a-year ad revenue compared to digital’s 2 billion. So while the TV advertising buyers are coming …
  • Fast Forward: Worn And Threadbare
    I collect T-shirts the way other people collect art or wine, but unlike them, I don’t preserve them for the future. I live in them to remember an important experience they are associated with. I wear them until they are worn out and all that’s left is the memory of what they represented. So it tickles me when I see my 17-year-old daughter sporting my 30-plus-year-old “No Nukes” T-shirt, or when I saw my son wearing the threadbare one shown in the image above.  That …
  • Staying Power
    Long-term, TV's big broadcast networks need much to maintain their continued viewer and advertising dominance: More hits, perhaps a slowing down of TV viewer erosion, and building new digital platforms that attract meaningful advertising revenues. In the short term, TV executives have more specific hurdles.
  • Let's Go Numb
    The reality landscape is turning inward, a world within a world. TV reality producer Mark Burnett told "Esquire" he hates the term "reality television" and prefers "non-fiction programming." These shows -- even the best of them -- aren't reality. In the AAA ball of cable television, they are awkwardly choreographed worlds of manufactured tension, interspersed with soundtracks and cityscapes.
  • The View From the Stage
    Mitch Oscar, a long-time agency executive, remembers Robin Williams taking the upfront stage to interest advertisers in a new series called Mork & Mindy.In full dress and playing his role as an alien, the comedian’s act included a prayer to the Nielsen gods. “We all cracked up hysterically,” Oscar said. Not all actors (or talent) sent out by networks to entice the buying community are able to bring the house down like a pre-movie star …
  • Show Starter
    When it comes to announcing their annual fall schedules,do the big broadcast networks really need to continue producing massive presentations and throwing gigantic parties during what has long been known as upfront week? Or have digital media and social networking eliminated the need for such old-school largesse? On the one hand, if the primary purpose of an upfront week presentation is to inform advertisers and the press of a network’s plans for the upcoming television season, it would seem that such events have in recent …
  • Bande A Part
    The last upfront presentation I attended was a Nickelodeon breakfast-palooza three or four years ago. I went with my wife, who had a valid professional reason to be there. Mine was of a more earthly nature: I was in the neighborhood and had a hard-core hankerin’ for hotel-buffet-caliber eggs. Also, the featured entertainer was one of the network’s litany of triple-threat starlets (acting/singing/reputation management). When iCarly — or Zoey 101 or True Jackson, VP, or whoever it was — comes a-knocking, you answer that door, friend. You answer …
  • The Turnaround
    In the spring of 1984, Edsel Ford II, the Ford Motor Co. scion who was then head of marketing for the Detroit auto giant, assembled the top media buyers of his major ad agencies - Y&R, JWT and Wells Rich Greene - to come up with a strategy to help turn around one of the worst sales periods ever in its history.
  • Confessions of an Upfront Reporter
    The first time I realized something was wrong with the upfront was as a rookie reporter covering the 1983-84 marketplace. Only a few weeks into the job, I started getting calls from Wall Street analysts asking me how the market was going. I remember thinking, "Aren't I supposed to be asking you?" A few years later, the pattern started to make sense.
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