Ovation became the second stop on this year’s New York Upfront event tour last week. In a rare bow to local weather, the arts-dedicated network made a (very smart) last-minute decision to push its event back 24 hours (necessitating a move to a different location) to avoid the March 7 nor’easter.
Venue: Club Room, located on the second floor of Soho Grand Hotel at 301 West Broadway, close to Canal St. and the Holland Tunnel. There were two rooms put to use -- a stylish space for presentations with plenty of classical-designed sofas and chairs, and a bar room framed by mod celebrity artwork hanging on opposite walls. Attendees spent most of their pre-presentation time around the bar, getting considerable face time with participating celebrities or sampling various wines at a designated table. Grade: 4 Jacks
Presentation: Delivered in two parts: a quick review of the network’s format and community outreach efforts, followed by original series highlights over the next year, showcased with video clips and brief commentary from the celebrities assembled. “The focus for us is on premium content and outstanding storytelling,” explained Liz Janneman (pictured at top), Ovation’s Executive Vice President of Network Strategy. “We have become America’s only multimedia company dedicated to the arts.” The opening Power of Art video (using the network’s tag line) emphasized the inspirational value performance and art can bring to world culture. The value comes out of giving viewers “the best in creativity the world has to offer.” Time was saved for an update on Journy, the travel programming app available on Roku, and coming soon to Amazon Fire TV and Google’s Chromecast. Grade: 3 Jacks
News: The unscripted newcomer ahead is The Wine Show (starting April 18), wherein actors Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys join a set of wine experts for visits to unique world landmarks. Julia Stiles heads the cast of Riviera (coming next February), a scripted saga taking place inside the art museum scene in Monaco. Separately, new seasons of current scripted favorites X Company and Versailles will launch May 7 and October 6, respectively. One item left out of the presentation: Ovation’s plan to launch its first U.S.-made scripted series. Look for that to happen next year, according to company officials. Grade: 2.5 Jacks (Pictured below, left to right: Julia Stiles, George Blagden of Versailles, Liz Janneman, Warren Brown of X Company and Joe Fattorini of The Wine Show.)
Star Time: Stiles and Brown were joined byVersailles star George Blagden (he plays King Louis XIV) and Wine Show expert Joe Fattorini (who gave attendees a nice tutorial on how to hold a wine glass). Favorite line from Stiles: “I was lucky enough to be taken on yachts. I’ll call that research.” All four were engaging before, during and after the presentation. Grade: 3.5 Jacks
Host: Janneman was smooth, polished and at times got off a humorous riff. After hearing X-Company co-star Warren Brown discuss his handling of fight scenes (which he helped stage) she added, “My takeaway is: don’t get on your nasty side.” Grade: 3.5 Jacks
Cuisine: Appetizer city, served before the presentation. Best eat: potato or crab coquettes. Worst eat (at least visually): the veggie slider. Grade: 3 Jacks (Note: Cuisine does not figure in the overall Jacks score.)
Data Insight: Surprise, surprise … the rare Upfront event without a sentence about consumers and their viewing habits from research. Grade: No Jacks awarded
Innovative Opportunity: “Stand for the Arts,” an ongoing advocacy venture in partnership with more than 30 performing and visual arts institutions, including American Ballet Theater. The intent is to stimulate more corporate investment in local arts groups to make up for cutbacks in grants from federal officials. “If our own government won’t support the arts, we will,” Janneman declared. Grade: 4 Jacks
Overall Grade: 3 Jacks (It would have been higher had Data Insights and more programming information been provided.) Solid presentation handled in an intimate setting, with both in-person celebrities and video clips hitting the mark. A round of applause to everyone behind the scenes for the smooth date and venue change on the fly.
Our Jacks ratings system:
5 Jacks – Excellent
4 Jacks – Very Good
3 Jacks – Good
2 Jacks – Fair
1 Jack – Poor
0 Jacks – Don’t go there!
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