Will The Upfronts Really Go Away?

NBC U’s Jeff Zucker says he’s done hosting an “Upfront”, the splashy ad sales presentation that NBC, and every other broadcaster hosts each spring in Manhattan. Will CBS, Fox, ABC and The CW will follow suit? Maybe.

On the one hand, broadcasters love to gripe about the time they spend on the affairs, which don’t provide ad buyers with much in the way of information they don’t already know. The actual “news” delivered at the upfronts – which shows are running at what time – is actually distributed in advance of the event themselves, and every buyer already gets DVDs of the shows so they can review them on their own. The money isn’t peanuts, either — we’re told the cost of each one of these shindigs (renting out a venue, flying out and putting up talent, copious amounts of free shrimp and booze) run around $2 million to $3 million.

On the other hand, the networks are still selling billions in advertising, so those sums are rounding errors. And there’s a prisoners dilemma here: If NBC really doesn’t host a party, and the other nets do, then Zucker won’t look savvy – he’ll look cheap. Also: Ad buyers really like the upfronts. Most of them love TV and want to feel like the cast of “Heroes” really want to hang out with them. They also like schmoozing with their pals, and they’re flattered when reporters ask them what they think of the upcoming season. Our bet: The upfronts may go away this year, when the networks may not have new shows to brag about. But we think this show gets renewed next year.

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