Backstage at the Upfronts – 05/15/15: Turner, CBS


Last year, Turner combined the power of television
and the data-driven opportunities of digital.
The result:
a double-digit increase in our partners’ ROI*.
This year, we’re ready to TURN IT UP!

LIVE IT UP with premium content across every screen.
POWER IT UP with our massive engaged audiences.
HEAT IT UP with next-generation data and branded content capabilities.
BACK IT UP with measurable results.
*Source: Turner Research / Nielsen Media Analytics; custom response effect attribution studies.


BEHIND THE SCENES at the Upfronts
The People! The Parties! The Buzz!a


It was standing room only at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, where Turner Broadcasting System “Turned It Up” with a slick, fast-moving presentation – the very first with its entire portfolio of networks, including Adult Swim, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, CNN, HLN, TBS, TNT, truTV and Turner Sports. The proceedings were anchored by the irreverent Inside the NBA team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and Shaquille O’Neal, who announced they’d just signed new contracts – and probably had even more fun than they were supposed to onstage because now, as Barkley pointed out at least three times, “They can’t fire me.”

Business began with a rousing introduction of Turner’s “ad sales all-stars,” headed by President of Turner Broadcasting Ad Sales Donna Speciale, who talked about delivering “the best, and most socially relevant content across all genres.” Noting that the media world is rapidly evolving, Speciale said, “Data and content are officially hitched,” and promised to transform the media ecosystem. “All of our divisions are working together, reinventing what it means to be a content company,” said the exec – then took aim at digital. “Turner truly is a multi-screen media powerhouse,” Speciale noted. “You don’t see anything like this from the digital players. Not without bot traffic, viewability issues, and Wild West metrics. Yeah, I just said that. We’re not into smoke and mirrors here, we’re into results.”

Frank Sgrizzi, Executive Vice President of Entertainment Ad Sales, offered Cynopsis more insights from the ad side.

What’s the pitch?
“For TBS and TNT in particular, it is about continuing to lead the way in world class content and data-driven ad products. We introduced data to the Upfront last year, before the rest of the industry was ready to have that conversation. We saw success with our Targeting Nowpartners – 4 agencies and 8 partners, and will build on those efforts for TBS/TNT in 2015/16. We will also continue to drive forward ROI Now, which is key to ensuring that our marketing partners fully understand the depth of their buy and how much product was moved as a result of partnering with us.

“For the portfolio as a whole and as an extension to the success we saw last year, you will see deals created for Audience Now, an opportunity to target across all our brands.And it’s not just about data, we will continue to invest in premium original content and smart branded content partnerships.” As for quality of content, TNT/TBS President and Turner Entertainment Chief Creative Officer “Kevin Reilly has already done a lot in a short time to ensure our brands are headed in the right direction.”

What categories do you hope to break?
“We have such a broad audience that we have the ability to have conversations with all categories. We have the premium content. We have the marketing tools. And we have best-in-class next generation advertising capabilities. We want to drive results for our advertising partners, and will continue to focus on those end results across all conversations and all categories in this Upfront.”

How does Turner stand out from the pack?
By being part of a pack, says Sgrizzi. “We have a unique portfolio of news, kids, entertainment and sports brands.We are thrilled to open up what was previously the TBS/TNT Upfront event to the entire portfolio. Together with my sales colleagues across our portfolio and Donna Speciale leading the charge, we are fully engaged to have a multi-screen, premium content conversation with our advertising partners. One that allows for not only big marketing partnerships, but extends to targeted buys and premium branded content. We have an advantage in this marketplace – it’s an exciting time to represent these brands.”

Especially considering Kevin Reilly’s big plans. “There’s a revolution coming to TBS and an evolution coming to TNT,” said Reilly. “We’re doing a proactive makeover of these networks. We’ll double the number of our original series on TBS and TNT over the next three years. And we’ll sharpen the point of view and be even more adventurous in our programming choices.” TBS’s new originals will be “awesomely in your face,” said Reilly, part of the plan to “age it down and skew slightly male…which takes us into the eye of the storm.”


So can you.

Our diverse portfolio of brands makes big emotional connections with consumers wherever they are, whenever they like.

Bigger Together

Adult Swim delivered its message via video, introduced by Rick and Morty. Facts flashed on screen (sample: for 10 consecutive years, the net has been #1 with 18-34, and 94 percent of viewers watch it live  “some people call that sports-good”), as well as a sampling of programming. Robert Smigel, one of the brains behind The Jack and Triumph Show, as well as the voice of Triumph, told Cynopsis at the post-Upfront lunch, “I haven’t been to an Upfront in 15 years. I had to reintroduce myself to Matthew Modine  (TNT’s Proof) – he was a host on SNL 20 years ago when I was there.” Jack McBrayer, the other half of Jack and Triumph, confided, “I told [Adult Swim] that I wouldn’t shoot in New York City in winter. Not after the weather you people have had.” And Seth Green (Robot Chicken) noted the power of the net: “After we made a joke on the show about Sex & the City Part 3, Kim Cattrall started following me on Twitter!”

CNN was represented by Anderson Cooper, who dubbed his network “the original disrupter” and noted it has the “largest share of cable news audience in seven years.” Of CNN’s 12 original series, Cooper said, nine account for the 10 most watched. “Guess who the other one is – yeah, it’s me,” he added.

truTV, beneficiary of a major brand makeover in October 2014, trotted out its band of Impractical Jokers, who got the go-ahead for three new specials, and Billy Eichner, whose Billy on the Street has been transplanted from Fuse. Cracked Eichner, “This feels like a Scientology convention to me. I feel like, any minute now, Kelly Preston is going to come out and sign us up.” But there was programming news, too, including truTV’s first-ever fully scripted series, Those Who Can’t, a comedy about a trio of frustrated high school teachers that drew big laughs. TruTV also promised to keep the “Way More Fun” momentum going with green lights for investigative comedy Adam Ruins Everything and The Driver’s Seat (wt), revealing what people talk about in the privacy of their cars.

A Proposal
Plenty of celebs were in the house, but Shaq only had eyes for one. Asked for a comment at the end of the presentation, Shaq looked down into the audience at TNT’s Agent X star and said, “Sharon Stone, will you marry me?”

Quote of the Day
“I really respect that you kept your porno name after you went legit.” – Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to Wolf Blitzer

–Reported by Lynn Leahey



What’s new with you?

Content. Data. Distribution. Unleashed. That’s what’s new with us.

You can get all the details at

Innovating Together


“Shows, strategy, people. This is CBS.” That’s how Les Moonves, President and Chief Operating Officer of CBS described his network at last night’s Upfront, held at Carnegie Hall. Not only was CBS celebrating being crowned ratings champ for the coveted 18-49 year olds this season, but Moonves also added, “We have been the most watched network for 12 out of the last 13 years. I love that stat.”

What’s the pitch?
"This is a schedule well-positioned to build on the foundation of last year when we introduced five successful new series and increased our audience by 5%," said Nina Tassler, Chairman, CBS Entertainment. “We have two football packages and the return of Thursday Night Football…and all roads lead to the most historic broadcast of all time, Super Bowl 50," said Moonves.

The Programming Slate
Female hero drama (Super Girl), two shows based on films (Limitless and Rush Hour) two comedies with established films stars back on TV (Angel from Hell and Life in Pieces), a medical drama inspired by ER, (Code Black), and another spinoff of a classic series (Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders).

Which Clip Got the Biggest Response?
Stephen Colbert and Les Moonves’ video on how Colbert is preparing for his Late Night debut was hilarious. Onstage, Colbert took the opportunity to play to the audience. “Let me assure you, advertisers, that young viewers love me because I speak their language English with letters replaced by numbers and emojis.”

To commemorate the return of the Super Bowl to CBS, a parade of football legends and Super Bowl MVP‘s were introduced and pumped up the crowd: Joe Namath,Emmett Smith, Marcus Allen, Phil Simms, Jerry Rice, Roger Staubach, Franco Harris and Kurt Warner.

Party On!
The Venue

After the Upfront at Carnegie Hall, guests piled into buses to head uptown to Lincoln Center where the reception was held under an elegant white tent.

The Decor
Half the tent was set up with cozy couches to sink into, grab a snack and watch TV. The other area was an entire football field. Four Super Bowl MVP’s were waiting in each end zone to take photos with guests. Also available for snaps were Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Jane Lynch, James Brolin, Super Girl’s Melissa Benoist, and Marcia Gay Harden.

Pin It
Guests were given a 50th anniversary Super Bowl pin as they entered.

What’s to Eat?
Football fan fare: Sliders of all kinds, including cheeseburgers, salmon, pulled pork; portabello mushrooms, chicken, plus French fries, fresh chips, and popcorn. Hot dog stands were sprinkled around the field, serving franks and sausages. Those craving more upscale cuisine could walk over to the mashed potato bar or fill up on steak, grilled zucchini, and meatballs.

Quote of The Day:
“During this time off, I have been looking for myself, experimenting with different personas: Russian strongman, Presidential frontrunner, and … Kardashian. You don’t know how long that waxing took.” — Stephen Colbert

Just Asking…Supergirl’s Melissa Benoist
What’s the Super Power would you want to have?
I’d really like to fly, just like Super Girl. Wouldn’t you?

What’s your favorite social media platform?
Instagram. Definitely.

— Reported by Lynn Kestin Sessler

Coming Up in Backstage at the Upfronts, in your mailbox at 6pm!

NBCUniversal Cable rocks the house at Javits Center, and The CW shares its story of stability and ratings strength at New York City Center.

Keep Watching & Reading,
Lynn Leahey, Editor
Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group 

Cynopsis Ad Sales: Mike Farina | VP, Sales | 203-218-6480

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