US TV networks announce upfronts after strike
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major U.S. television networks proved wrong predictions the screenwriters' strike would thwart their spring upfront presentations, announcing on Thursday plans to proceed with the biggest advertising week of the year.
CBS Corp said it plans to host advertisers at the annual presentation at New York's Carnegie Hall on May 14, with additional details to follow.
Walt Disney Co's ABC said it would move ahead with plans for its upfront on May 13 at Lincoln Center, while News Corp's Fox said it will hold its presentation on May 15. It did not announce a site.
The only uncertainty is General Electric's NBC Universal, which had been close to a decision to scrap the glitzy shows. A spokeswoman said NBC would go ahead with the upfront but "changes" would be made, without elaborating. She said an official announcement would be made shortly.
In a tradition dating back to the 1950s, the upfronts occur each May with the TV networks unveiling their prime-time lineups at star-studded events.
Upscale parties for marketers and affiliates follow, before executives begin the work of negotiating about $9 billion in deals for prime-time advertising.
Because the Hollywood writers strike pushed back development plans for the 2008-09 television season, media watchers had predicted it would be difficult for the broadcast networks to offer their lineups to advertisers by May.
The plans from the TV networks come after the strike was settled this week following a three-month work stoppage.
During the strike, objections had surfaced from media executives who said the upfronts represented an outdated way of planning and buying advertising time.
NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker was among those who raised questions about the upfronts in recent weeks. Zucker suggested NBC might scrap its presentation at Radio City Music Hall -- which he called a "dog-and-pony show" -- and instead just carry out meetings with advertisers.
The usefulness of the presentations -- where the networks parade out stars or their own executives for skits and dance numbers -- became the subject of the sharpest criticism.
Indeed, industry sources said they expected most of the TV networks' to make changes this year, probably scaling down presentations from those in the past.
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch, editing by Tim Dobbyn)
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