05/16/23: Cynopsis Upfront Report: Tuesday


Cynopsis Medias First Morning Read
Tuesday May 16, 2023

On the Ground During Upfront Week: Tuesday

The 2023 Upfront presentations have started off with a bang. NBCU ad chief Linda Yaccarino’s sudden exit, new series announcements, and WGA strike picketers have set the tone for this week, one that demands flexibility, creativity, and sometimes, a sense of humor. Whether they’re in front of a crowd or in private tete-a-tetes, media companies are sharing exciting innovations and programming as part of a well-rounded pitch to advertisers. Read on to find out what it was like to be in the thick of things.

At the top of everyone’s mind at NBCUniversal’s Upfront presentation at Radio City Music Hall was the departure on Friday of Linda Yaccarino, the company’s former head of advertising and soon-to-be Twitter CEO. Once attendees made it past the WGA picketers outside, a pre-recorded video of Ted, the animated bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane and star of the upcoming Peacock series “Ted,” opened up the presentation. Ted was followed by Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, who acknowledged the elephant in the room by asking, “So, what was more surprising today: being welcomed by a foul-mouthed teddy bear, or seeing me up here on stage?” As for Yaccarino, Lazarus offered a gracious send-off: “For her many contributions, and for building an excellent team here, we want to thank her and wish her well.”

There was no ignoring the writers’ strike, so Lazarus addressed that, too, saying, “We are grateful for the contributions writers make to our company and respect their right to demonstrate. It may take some time, but I know we will eventually get through this and the result will be a stronger foundation on which we can all move forward together.”

Warner Bros. Discovery has requested their scheduled talent not attend WBD’s in-person event tomorrow, out of respect for both the writers on strike and stars reluctant to cross picket lines. The company’s original lineup included likes of Magnolia Network’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, but CEO David Zaslav and HBO and Max Chief Casey Bloys will attend in person to talk up the company’s offerings.

Netflix bowed out of its in-person Upfront event on Wednesday amid the writers’ strike, but Paramount announced back in December it was skipping a splashy presentation in favor of smaller events with buyers and agencies. Now, with many companies in the midst of upfront discussions, the Paramount team’s meetings are already wrapping up, a signal that perhaps the tradition is ready for a reset. But John Halley, President, Paramount Advertising, said that while upfront season is certainly changing, what advertisers are looking for may not be. “For as much as Upfront season is evolving – and obviously we changed our approach this year, to great success – what advertisers are looking for has, in many ways, stayed the same,” says Halley. “Content is key, clients want to know what’s coming, and they want to know how they can be involved in it. At Paramount, we know how to make popular content and content popular, and we can amass and scale huge audiences. Whatever audiences are looking for, we’ve got it, where they want it. And, all this content is long-form, and watched on the big screen – the greatest format for brand storytelling.”


Long-term, the writers’ strike could have a significant impact on TV habits and advertiser expectations, said Amy Leifer, DirecTV’s chief advertising sales officer. “If there is a delay in new scripted programming, viewers will migrate to live sports, reality TV, popular on-demand collections, and even towards other types of content like social video,” Leifer noted. “Brands and advertisers have an opportunity to leverage audience-based solutions in order to maintain their ability to effectively reach viewers across screens, and will be looking for flexibility especially going into upfront conversations and negotiations.”

There was less starpower than usual as celebs honored picket lines, but there was wattage nonetheless, with news and unscripted talent taking to the stage. NBCU aired a video package with clips of creators like Amy Poehler and Dick Wolf (recorded before the strike), and there were appearances by “Today” anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, Ariana Madix (“Vanderpump Rules”), Real Housewives, Mario Lopez (“Access Hollywood”) NBC News’ Willie Geist (who said, “If you squint a little bit, I could be Colin Jost”), CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin and Telemundo’s Rafael Amaya to tout the company’s programming and marketing muscle. .

And there was music. Reba McEntire and Nick Jonas performed at Radio City Music Hall, and Telemundo hosted an after party at The Glasshouse featuring a performance by reggaeton artist Nicky Jam. Things got rowdy, and one guest jumped on stage to show off her dance moves, even inviting her boss to join her in front of the cheering crowd. Commented one attendee, “Telemundo hosts the best party of the Upfronts.”

Inviting attendees and advertisers to “come with us” to celebrate Latinos, Beau Ferrari, chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, said, “Latinos are the demographic and economic growth engine of our country, one of the most important opportunities for business in America. We are 63 million strong, spending nearly two trillion dollars a year on all of your products. We are young, dynamic consumers transforming every aspect of society, shaping the mainstream, and defining some of the most important cultural moments in our country.”

At TelevisaUnivision’s Tuesday morning Upfront at Pier 36, President of Ad Sales and Marketing Donna Speciale welcomed everyone to the dance floor. Salsa dancing with a band and professional dancers, attendees balanced their swag bags, empanadas and margaritas while learning steps from the pros. Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi concluded the morning presentation of three songs, including 2018 hit “Despacitio.”

Speciale touted the impact of Hispanic influence in the US. “In our community, the future is bright, optimistic, resilient and ready to buy your products and services… We have incredible momentum and massive reach to an influential and growing audience. This is ‘Young América,’ contributing 100% of 18-34 growth over the next five years and driving our collective culture.”


Alejandro Berry, Univision sports anchor, invited fútbol and football legends to unveil four major sports announcements. Bulgarian soccer player Hristo Stoichkov announced the company’s renewed broadcast rights for the UEFA Champions League through 2027 in a $225 million deal; Spanish soccer player Carles Puyol shared that the UEFA Euro Cup Germany 2024 will stream exclusively on ViX; 1997 Copa América and Brazilian champion Romario revealed that Copa América is coming back to US soil and will stream from June 14 to July 14, 2024; and Super Bowl XLVI champion Victor Cruz was on hand to announce that, for the first time ever, TelevisaUnivision has partnered with the NFL and CBS Sports to air the Super Bowl in Spanish, taking place February 11, 2024.

Other news from TelevisaUnivision included:
– Ilia Calderon, anchor of “Aquí y Ahora” will host a new true crime series on ViX, “Señales del Crimen”
– Angelique Boyer and Sebastian Rulli will star in the novela “El Extraño Retorno de Diana Salazar”
– ViX is developing “Circo Gomez,” a series about a traveling circus
– The 2023 Latin Grammys will take place in Seville, Spain on November 16

Back to NBCU….In a competitive marketplace, “you need every single impression to work harder than ever,” said Mark Marshall, interim chairman of NBCUniversal’s advertising and partnerships group. “This is exactly why we built One Platform—to be the only, advertiser-first ecosystem, that provides you with: More consumer touchpoints, smarter technology, bigger partnerships, and the best impact and sales results for your business.” Announcing new series such as “Extended Family,” “Twisted Metal,” “Dr. Death,” “The Americas,” and “Apples Never Fall” starring Annette Bening, NBCU’s Mark Lazarus said, “Anyway you look at it, Comcast NBCUniversal is built for the future.”

FOX Entertainment unveiled its 2023-24 program slate with six new series orders, five second season renewals and 13 additional series returns. Spanning scripted, reality and animation, the media company continues program ownership from in-house business units FOX Entertainment Studios, FOX Alternative Entertainment, Studio Ramsay Global and Bento Box Entertainment. CEO Rob Wade said, “Our content portfolio continues to deliver balance and variety in its storytelling through the strength and stability of our returning favorites and tremendous creativity of our series.”

Returning FOX series include dramas “9-1-1” Lone Star,” “Accused,” “Alert: Missing Persons Unit,” “The Cleaning Lady,” “Animal Control,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy,” “The Great North,” “The Simpsons,” “Farmer Wants a Wife,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “I Can See Your Voice,” “LEGO Masters,” “The Masked Singer,” “Name That Tune,” “Next Level Chef” and “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test.” New series “Doc” and “Rescue: HI-Surf” from executive producer John Wells will also hit the screen as well as animated comedies “Krapopolis” and “Grimsburg,” and game shows “Snake Oil,” hosted and produced by David Spade, and “We Are Family,” hosted by Jamie Foxx and his daughter, Corinne Foxx.

In his first upfront as Fox Entertainment CEO, Rob Wade said, “We are, and will always be, advertising first.” Spotlighting what the company offers advertisers and audiences, Wade called out a focus on advertising and content as their biggest differentiator: “Your investment works harder because of our unique content and strategic focus.”



NBCUniversal packed the house at Radio City Music Hall. Nick Jonas closed out the show with his original songs “Levels” and “Jealous.”

WGA protest signs read: “Write vs. Wrong,” “Do we have some stories for you…” “And Just Like That… We’re On Strike,” “No Contract, No Peace,” “This isn’t 1984!” and “How can I afford my La Croix addiction?”

WGA chants included: “Get up, get down, New York is a union town” and “I don’t know but I’ve been told, NBC has a heart that’s cold.”

“SNL” cast member Chloe Fineman joined the approximately 250 WGA protesters outside NBCUniversal’s Upfront presentation. “Good Omens” showrunner Neil Gaiman and David Foley of “Fargo” were also among the picketers.

“Peacock, eh? There definitely weren’t any comedy writers in the room when that name was picked,” said Seth MacFarlane’s Ted.

Attendees snagged scented candles, mugs, stickers and more from a conveyor belt of gifts from Latin-owned businesses following TelevisaUnivision’s morning talks.

One attendee remarked towards the end of Nicky Jam’s performance at Telemundo’s Upfront, “The dancers aren’t even sweating!” Another replied, “But I am!”.

Fox Entertainment CEO Rob Wade introduced chef and host Gordon Ramsey as, “Gordon, the man who puts the ‘F’ in Fox.” He also welcomed Allison Wallach on stage as “the hardest working person in unscripted television, other than Nick Canon’s babysitter, of course.”

Derek Jeter, Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, Michael Strahan and Rob Gronkowski threw out signed baseballs and footballs to the standing-room only crowd at Fox.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update, with more from Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and more!

Cynopsis Team

Lynn Leahey
Editorial Director

Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Robbie Caploe
VP/Group Publisher

Executive Director of Sales
Albert Nassour
Cynopsis Job Listings Sales
John Cox


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