Another upfronts week has wrapped (if you missed any of Adweek’s upfront coverage, you can find it here), during which many of the presenting networks sought to assure buyers of their current linear stability while also making big promises—without providing any concrete details—about the future and the impact of their upcoming streaming services.
Upfront attendees saw fewer trailers than usual as the broadcasters curtailed their new series orders, led by ABC, where new ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke told reporters that she is changing the company’s approach to series orders.
“Last year, ABC launched seven new shows in the fall and four at midseason, which I felt was just too many. Too many messages to get out there, and too much for consumers to be able to try to focus on,” said Burke, who instead has four new shows on tap for the fall (and three more for midseason) and will focus on “the few shows that we really think can break through.”
With its shift away from “putting on something new for the sake of trying something new,” ABC hopes to prevent “the tremendous churn that tends to happen when you pick up so many new shows and you have to launch so many huge shows,” said Burke. “We just don’t have marketing budgets to launch all those shows properly and to give that many messages to the viewers. And so you end up having shows that suffer for not having those strong campaigns. And in this cluttered marketplace, it’s not fair to shows and it’s not fair to viewers.”
NBC is adding three shows to its fall lineup and making changes on just two nights this fall: Monday and Thursday.
CBS also opted to deploy its five new fall shows (three comedies and two dramas, which is more than any other broadcaster) also on Monday and Thursday nights. “It allows us to focus our promotional resources and our efforts toward two nights,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl told reporters, adding that the new schedule is “stable but not sleepy; aggressive but not reckless.”
The CW brought back all five of its freshman shows, almost unheard of among broadcasters, and will be adding only two new shows in the fall.
While Fox was a bit more in flux than its rivals, the network, which is debuting four new programs this fall, touted its future stability: starting this fall, it will feature Thursday Night Football followed by WWE’s SmackDown Live (airing Fridays for 52 weeks a year), Fox College Football on Saturday and its Sunday night animation lineup.
The only outlier on the linear stability front last week was WarnerMedia, which, in a risky move, said it would be blurring the branding of networks TNT, TBS and truTV.
As they assured marketers of their linear stability, several companies—most notably, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia—also devoted a big part of their respective presentations to discussing their upcoming streaming services, due out in the next year. However, they didn’t share any new specifics about the services, like names, nor did they mention a single original or library title that will appear on them.
Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, told attendees that her company’s ad-supported OTT platform, rolling out “by mid-next year,” will be “the largest initiative in our company’s history.”
But she offered no new details, only reiterating that it would include “a slate of new originals and a gigantic library of old favorites.” Yaccarino hinted that the NBCU-owned series The Office—Netflix’s most-streamed show last year—will be coming to the service when she said, “the shows that people love the most and stream the most are coming home.”