What We Learned About TV in Its Biggest Week

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Stocks were falling and Covid cases were increasing.

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For the first time in three years, previews—the showcases the media industry organizes to entice advertisers to pay for commercial time) took place in person in Manhattan. In the past few days, thousands of ad buyers have flocked to prestigious institutions in New York like Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. On the line? Tens of billions of dollars in advertising revenue.

Here are some of the key takeaways of the week:

In 2019, advertisers spent as little as 10 percent of their budget on streaming. Some media buyers said in interviews that the budget is approaching 50 percent this year.

The presentations reflected change. Except for a short, two-minute video that focused on the hourly CBS fall program, media executives barely mentioned the network prime time lineups. On Disney’s front, the vast majority of trailers and promos are devoted to movies and series for its flagship streaming service Hulu and Disney+, which will introduce commercials later this year.

“This is my first preview,” said Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige from the Disney stage before unveiling the trailer for “She-Hulk: Lawyer Attorney,” a new comedy that will premiere on Disney+ this summer.

This was a consistent theme all week, with previews of upcoming shows and movies on Peacock, Paramount+, HBO Max, and Discovery+ getting substantial airtime. Free ad-supported streaming services Tubi (owned by Fox) and Pluto (owned by Paramount) were also prominently discussed.

“Traditionally, upfront payments are for TV networks,” said Allan Thygesen, who manages more than $100 billion for Google’s advertising business in North and South America. “But today, because of the incredible changes we’re seeing in the media industry, that haunts your parents.”

Netflix aims to introduce ads by the end of the year during its subscriber drop. Competing executives used this as an opportunity this week to say why their own businesses are a better target for ads.

“We’ve been committed to the ad-supported video business since the earliest moments in our company’s history,” said Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal of Radio City Music Hall. “This is not an extension or a pivot to our core business. This is our core business.”

Linda Yaccarino, head of global advertising at NBCUniversal, made a similar note, saying that for some of her competitors, “advertising may seem like an afterthought, or worse, a new idea for a revenue stream.” But not here.”

At Fox, Eric Shanks, CEO of Fox Sports, addressed the ad buyers: “We know we’d just be Netflix without you. We absolutely love selling pizza, trucks, phones and insurance.”

And Jimmy Kimmel, the leading fry king, has repeatedly slapped the struggling tech giant.

At the beginning of Disney, “Netflix openly encourages us to share passwords and says, ‘How do these people make money?’ remember what we said.” “It turns out they didn’t.”

“Oh, does everybody like ‘Bridgerton’?” he continued. “How much do you think they’ll love it when they’re interrupted by your Zyrtec ad every four minutes? We already have Netflix with ads – it’s called Hulu.”

Single-view advertisers aren’t used to seeing it during the pre-week: Fox News.

For years, he didn’t appear in public presentations on the Murdochs’ news channel, Fox; This was a relief for entertainment executives, who were wary of alienating the company’s left-leaning Hollywood talent. But three years after Rupert Murdoch sold its film and television studios to Disney, Fox News first featured as much as its sports division and its weakened entertainment division in Monday’s Fox presentation.

“We are all part of one Fox,” Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott said, underscoring the point in a pre-recorded video.

While Ms. Scott never mentioned the network’s top-rated host, Tucker Carlson, she’s faced advertiser riots in the past for her race-related monologues, she did appear in a promotional reel.

Later in the week, CNN’s new leader, Chris Licht, announced that the newly formed Warner Bros. He took the lead stage for Discovery. Mr. Licht stressed that the cable news network would strengthen its commitment to reporting, suggesting that the network would move away from expanded opinion programming.

“At a time when extremism dominates cable news,” he told advertisers, “we will take a different path by reflecting on the real lives of our viewers and elevating America’s and the world’s perspective on this media.”

After two years of virtual showcases running from ad buyers’ laptops, networks have mostly gone to shock and awe – an emphasis on shock.

Ad buyers were greeted with blinding lights, seat-shaking sounds, and elaborate musical numbers. Movie stars like The Rock, like Sylvester Stallone and Dwayne Johnson, took the stage as a pair of Kardashians and the Manning brothers. Singer Lizzo encouraged ad buyers to sing the lyrics “I feel good as hell” at the YouTube opening ceremony – Warner Bros. A request he made again on nest day in the Discovery showcase.

On Monday, as several thousand unmasked ad buyers flocked to Radio City Music Hall for the NBCUniversal event, an alert was heard on attendees’ phones: Covid cases in New York were on the rise and indoor masking was highly encouraged.

“It’s great to be in Radio City – what a historic room to be able to tell people you’re infected with Covid,” Seth Meyers said later during the presentation.

Covid concerns aside (Mr. Kimmel tested positive shortly before the Disney presentation and had to perform via satellite), the show went on. Jennifer Hudson, Warner Bros. On Discovery, she praised Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”. Even YouTube for the first time in the week came out loud with pyrotechnics, sequins, and jazz hands in a Broadway theater from Times Square.

But behind the humming glare was a fundamental shift. Viewer habits are changing, interest in fall dramas has vanished, and there has been an ever-present existential concern: What became the highlights and is it still worth it?

“We can’t get to the front line, shake hands, make a few phone calls and complete our media investments this year,” said Shenan Reed, head of media at L’Oreal. YouTube. “Mad Men’s three martini lunch days are finally over, sadly.”