Jeff Zucker said at NATPE that expensive, showy Upfront presentations are a thing of the past, or at least should be, so NBC Universal is going low-key this year. And while that may be the case, NBCU is also getting a jump on the competition. The NBC Television Network will unveil its Fall 2008 lineup next week – a full six weeks before any of the other networks. And in keeping with its emphasis on 52-week scheduling, it will also be making pitches to advertisers for its midseason and summer programming, not just the new stuff coming for fall.
As for the promised cost-cutting, NBC executives won’t be walking across the street to make their pitches in Radio City Music Hall. They’ll be staying right in the 30 Rockefeller Plaza building to introduce potential advertisers to the network’s new shows. No word yet on whether the traditional shrimp platters will be replaced with hot dogs from the carts on the sidewalks outside.
RBR/TVBR observation: When you get down to it, the Upfront has really been about buzz. Ad buyers make commitments to a new show because people think it is going to be a hit, based on a pilot or, sometimes, just the star-power of the lead actor or actress. The truth is, buzz is often wrong. Highly touted new entries often fail to keep butts in couches and eyes on screens. On the other hand, if a show does better than expected, the network will do better selling in the scatter market. So, in the long run, what really matters is ratings, not buzz. Other than the reasoning that “it’s always been done this way,” all the hoopla about the Upfront is probably overdone.