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Kevin KrimMay 14, 20234 min read

Dispatches from the Upfronts – Day 1

This was always going to be a big, interesting week. And that was BEFORE the picket lines and tweet-worthy announcements.

Monday marked the start of the 2023 TV Upfronts – the launch of a negotiation season where billions in brand media investment will be decided. Historic NYC theaters were packed, with brands and agencies expecting stages full of TV stars and wise-cracking late-night hosts. But this year was different – and we’re not just talking about the foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay…and a dancing teddy bear.

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A consistent thread throughout the day’s presentations?  Convergent TV has reached its tipping point. Always inevitable for advertisers, streaming is a clear priority at the Upfronts. Case in point: NBCU’s post-show announcement that it will carry one NFL playoff game on Peacock next season. There wasn’t an on-stage segment that didn’t reference each network’s streaming platform (Peacock and Tubi for the drinking game wins!). Still, live is the king of TV. While streaming will start to showcase more original programming, networks touted their live (aka, linear) TV environments as the home to the most engaging, most watched scripted, and unscripted content across sports, news, and entertainment.

Unscripted entertainers save the day

NBCUniversal’s Monday morning kickoff from Radio City Music Hall was a tale of two Marks (and one Jonas Brother) book-ending their big event. Mark Lazarus – NBCU’s Chairman of TV & Streaming – addressed the two elephants in the room with typical class: NBCU’s recently departed ad chief, and the WGA writers’ strike, happening just outside of the historic venue’s entrance. Meanwhile, network veteran Mark Marshall, the new Chairman of NBCU Advertising, brought home the presentation for the buyers in the room… NBCU trotted out AC Slater (I mean, Mario Lopez), Reba McEntire, Bravo’s Ariana Madix plus new and original Real Housewives stars, lots of news anchors, and Telemundo talent. But when pre-recorded stars did show up, you couldn’t miss the “filmed before the WGA strike” disclaimer on-screen.

Fox and Telemundo rounded out the day. Fox definitely had more unscripted flair. And it wasn’t just in their execs’ presentations, but also from Gordon Ramsay’s hot takes and Erin Andrews’ shout-outs for the bar. Michael Strahan, Derek Jeter, Rob Gronkowski, Carli Lloyd, and A-Rod were all there to toss autographed balls out to the bar-ready crowd.

Sports remains the big player for live TV, which was apparent across both NBCU and Fox Upfront presentations. And boy does live sports perform. According to EDO data, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics (on NBCU networks) carried the torch on from previous games, with airings during primetime Olympic Coverage on NBC delivering over 33x the total impact of the average TV spot. And viewers during the 2022 MLB World Series on Fox were 63% more engaged with ads compared to the average airing across all dayparts on broadcast/cable networks.

Beyond the stars of reality and sports – NBCU had some big name drops – Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, Annette Bening, Anthony Mackie, and Rian Johnson – along with some fresh new faces from the world of Telemundo. And with the 50th season of Saturday Night Live (SNL) upon us – which beyond dropping the topical sketches that make us laugh and think – also lines up top advertisers. According to EDO data, SNL on NBC consistently ranked as one of the most engaging late-night programs on broadcast television. Across all advertisers, airings during SNL were 116% more effective in driving brand engagements than the average late-night broadcast program. New episodes of SNL were even more impactful environments, with the average airing during a new episode of Saturday Night Live delivering 3.5x the impact of the average airing on other broadcast late-night programs.

Across both the NBCU + Telemundo Upfronts, the stats about Spanish-language audiences were staggering – but believable. Regardless of language, Telemundo is the fastest-growing network in primetime. And while we’re still learning about – and catching our breath from – William Levy, here’s one thing we do know. According to EDO data, viewers of Spanish-language networks are highly-engaged audiences. Across all advertisers in 2022, English-language ads on Spanish-language networks generated an average of 8% more engagement than ads on English-language networks. Spanish-language ads on Spanish-language networks drove even more engagement, outperforming ads on English-language networks by 22%. 

Who’s next on deck? // What’s next on deck? 

With the first day of the Upfronts behind us, the real conversations are just getting started – over drinks and dinner all over NYC – as well as emails, texts, and media plans for brand advertisers around the country. In the days to come, we know Disney, Univision, Warner Brothers Discovery, and newcomer Netflix will be upping the ante – and EDO will be in the room, with our data at the center of the action. So stay tuned and watch this space…lots more to come this week!