Welcome to Ad Age’s TV upfronts 2023 newsletter. We’ll be sharing a daily roundup of events, interviews and sessions from TV’s dog-and-pony shows throughout the week. You can find all of Ad Age’s TV upfronts coverage here.
Does size matter?
If size was all that mattered, Disney’s upfront would be leading the pack of this week’s presentations. The media company’s stage inside the North Javits Center was massive, stretching the width of a cavernous room with overhead screens showing onstage presenters too far away to see from the cheap seats. The stage was the source of multiple quips, as those onstage joked about traversing from one side to the other.
But the Mouse House struggled to match its upfront structure’s scale in the show’s content. Like the other media companies presenting this week, the writers’ strike prevented Disney from matching the star power of its past presentations. However, more than a lack of celebrity, the nearly two-hour show dragged as the company’s sports assets took up half the runtime with a series of onstage interviews and to tout Super Bowls that ABC will host for the 2026 and 2030 seasons. Peyton Manning hyped “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” and “The Bachelor” host Jesse Palmer discussed audience targeting segments. Trailer reveals for shows including season three of “Only Murders in the Building” and a cast of samurais that battled in the Javits Center aisles for the upcoming FX limited series “Shogun” were delegated to the tail end.
But Disney made the most of the talent it had, kicking off the show with an appearance by Serena Williams after ad chief Rita Ferro’s opening remarks. Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills player who collapsed during a game in January, received a standing ovation when he took the stage during the ESPN portion of the presentation.
The biggest star power of the week was the appearance of Kim and Khloe Kardashian, who promoted the next season of “The Kardashians” on Hulu. There was also buzz for the trailers for the new season of Disney+ series “Loki” and a collection of “Star Wars” series.
Disney will rely on reality programming for the fall season as the writers’ strike is expected to delay the production of its comedies and dramas. No original scripted series appear on ABC’s primetime schedule; instead, it will rely on not one but two versions of “The Bachelor” franchise, including a new iteration centered on a bachelor in his golden years. The ABC lineup also includes the return of “Dancing with the Stars,” which moved to Disney+ last season.
Disney made no mention of the writers’ strike in its presentation, despite the seeming impact on its fall programming.
ABC is the only broadcaster to not have any scripted series on its fall schedule—though Fox didn’t formally announce its fall schedule.
Read more about Fox’s upfront here
Disney spent a large portion of its presentation on sports, news and its local stations, which historically have only earned a small slice of stage time. But with little else on the scripted front to promote due to the WGA strike, the Mouse House had to rely on its library of IP and unscripted shows.
Above: Donna Speciale presenting at TelevisaUnivision upfront (Credit: TelevisaUnivision)
Super Bowl news
TelevisaUnivision announced it will air the 2024 Super Bowl for the first time. The Hispanic-targeted media company struck a deal with the NFL and CBS Sports, which will air the game in English.
On the upfront stage, ad sales chief Donna Speciale also showed her support for Nielsen, imploring advertisers to lean into its big data product. “There’s finally a currency where Hispanics and their media behaviors are accurately measured,” she said.
While Speciale demonstrated her education in Hispanic culture at last year’s upfront by showing off her salsa dancing skills (which made a few appearances again this year), the ad chief this year showed off her soccer skills. A pre-recorded segment showed Speciale on the field in a scrimmage with players from the Mexican league and traveling to Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium to commentate a match.
For more upfront news and insights on fall schedules, new ad products and negotiations visit Ad Age’s TV upfronts blog.