TV upfronts Day 1—lack of TV stars from NBCU and Fox make for lackluster presentations

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.

In on the joke 

The TV upfronts were shrouded in drama even before they kicked off. For NBCUniversal, which opened upfronts week yesterday from Radio City Music Hall, this included the high-profile departure of ad chief Linda Yaccarino, who announced she was joining Twitter as its new CEO on Friday. NBCU acknowledged Yaccarino’s absence and her contributions to the company. But it was its opening number that really had audiences laughing. 

The show kicked off with Ted, the foul-mouthed stuffed bear who will soon be adapted into a series on Peacock, dancing to a musical number with the lyrics: 

There ain’t no denyin’ the streamers are dyin’

And what do they need? they need ads

The profits were hot, things were cookin’ along

But then they got colder than Prince Harry’s dog

‘Cause all of those bastards are sharin’ their passwords

With all of their moms and their dads

We used to have hits that you love and you know

Like “Seinfeld” and “Friends” and The Cosby—wait no

To hell with the new ways

TV is the true way

Who needs all those Instagram ads?

Twitter may seem like the place to begin

But Twitter just let all the crazies back in

Peacock, huh? There were obviously no comedy writers in the room when that name was picked.

Commercials have worked since before you were born

They even pop up now when you’re watching porn

We all were just dreamers to think that the streamers 

Were anything else besides fads

Netflix and chill became a slogan that stuck

So we called one that we called Peacock and fuck

Read more about NBCU’s upfront here


The Writers Guild of America strike was certainly visible on day 1 of the upfronts. While protesters expectedly gathered outside of Radio City Music Hall and Fox’s presentation at the Hammerstein Ballroom, it was not to the scale some had worried about, including Netflix, which canceled its in-person event in favor of a virtual one. More prominent was the lack of TV stars appearing on stage at the upfronts due to the strike. 

Spotted above: Tubi’s Super Bowl ad bunny had advertisers lining up for photos.

Overall, it created what many in attendance are calling lackluster presentations. For its part, NBCU filled the gap with 10 trailers for its upcoming shows on NBC, Peacock and Telemundo as well as sizzle reels for Universal films and sports. Glaringly absent was also late-night funnyman Seth Myers, who was not on hand to do his usual roasting of the TV industry. And video interviews with show creators including Amy Poehler, Rian Johnson and Dick Wolf featured a disclaimer that the interviews were conducted in April 2023, before the writers went on strike earlier this month.

During his onstage remarks, Mark Lazarus, NBCU chairman of TV and streaming, said, “We also want to acknowledge the writers strike. We are grateful for the contribution writers make to our company and respect their right to demonstrate. It may take some time, but I know we will eventually get through this. And the result will be a stronger foundation on which we can all move forward together.”

Over at Fox, the network revealed earlier in the day that none of its upcoming fall scripted primetime series were completed before the strike began. Its roster of animated series, however, was completed. Its presentation went heavy on news and sports, with no representation of its entertainment properties. 

Read more about Fox’s upfront here

Above: Acrobatic performers at Fox’s upfront demonstrate the industry’s favorite word: flexibility.

Disney leans on programmatic 

Disney, which will make its pitch to advertisers today, is pushing programmatic.  Rita Ferro, president of advertising, is expected to announce the company will include programmatic buying as a core element of every upfront deal. 

This comes amid tough economic conditions, which are expected to intensify advertisers’ need for flexibility and buy commercial inventory close to real-time. 

For more upfront news and insights on fall schedules, new ad products and negotiations visit Ad Age’s TV upfronts blog

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