Simon Applebaum’s Best Upfront/NewFront Moments of 2017

By Upfronts/NewFronts Archives
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The Upfront/Digital Content NewFront event season is now in the rear-view mirror.  It was a swift 2 ½ months of covering presentations all around Manhattan and learning what's ahead for many broadcast, cable and multicast-delivered networks, and the increasing number of digital services, increasingly available via smart TV sets and devices giving sets smart functionality (Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and so forth).  We saw performances up close and sometimes personal.  (I became the punchline in comedian Wanda Sykes’ routine at the BET Upfront).  For the first time, we picked up data insights and unique initiatives worth keeping in mind when Upfront/NewFront spending decisions are reached among sponsors and media buyers.  What were the most memorable sights, sounds, news breaks and, yes, cuisine offerings throughout it all?  Here’s the scoop.

(Note:  Ed Martin has already weighed in on the Upfront presentations by CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and The CW.)

Best Venue – Skylight Clarkson North

The AMC Networks Upfront and the Turner NewFront were both staged here.  Sensational, inventive usage of the same open space by different organizations.  In AMC's case, an elegant dining room framed on three sides by the largest video-walls we saw all season.  Turner turned that interior into a mini-museum with well-designed, informative or playful exhibits.

Runner up:  Madison Square Garden Theater for Hulu and Turner Networks
Second runner up:  Rainbow Room for Crown Media Family Networks

Best Presentation – Turner Networks and YouTube (a tie)

The phrase “excellent versatility” applies to both.  They were well-staged and -paced efforts that packed plenty into 90 and 60 minutes, respectively.  Turner had the comedy highlight of this Upfront with an unforgettable conversation among Conan O'Brien, Anderson Cooper and Shaquille O'Neal.  YouTube always comes up with surprising moments and this year, unlike previous years, broke news.

Runner upA+E Networksexecutives offered a rare public display of themselves in "biography" fashion.  For several, this was an unexpectedly moving exercise.
Second runner up:  BET's executives were smart, sharp and full of news, seemingly unfazed by the sudden departure of Stephen Hill, the network's long-time chief programming executive.

Best News Content -- Hulu

Hulu's range of announcements from new series to interactive advertising/commerce over the TV set rollout made it the most newsworthy presentation.  Every new program description or sizzle reel gave off positive vibes.  If Hulu’s plan to offer movie ticket ordering comes off this fall, this may be the biggest advance in the long-discussed advancement of commerce through TV.

Runner up: BET, with its many details about new drama series and late-night comedy/variety efforts
Second runner upYouTube for the promotion of its ad-supported original series

Best Host -- James Corden (YouTube/Turner/CBS)

One of the most versatile men in show business gave strikingly different but consistently amusing performances at YouTube (a Broadway-style splashy music and dance number), Turner (a drop the mic rap satire) and CBS (where he appeared as a Vulcan on stage at Carnegie Hall).

Runner up:  BET's Media Sales President Louis Carr, who had the entire audience on Twitter promoting the show
Second runner upAMC Networks' family of senior executives, each of them more personable than most, all of them happy to hang out after the show and chat with everyone.  (Special props to IFC President Jennifer Caserta, who never had a moment to eat all night, for sharing her after-party pizza out by her car with my colleagues Ed Martin and Ainsley Andrade.)

Best Star Presence – YouTube

From James Corden to Kevin Hart to Katy Perry, the starshine was blinding at YouTube's presentation.

Runner up:  Jewel at the Crown Media Family Networks Upfront
Second runner up (tie): Grace VanderWaal at the Astronauts Wanted/Rumble Yard NewFront; Shakira at the Univision Upfront

Best Cuisine – National Geographic 

The buffet at National Geographic’s event offered a mouthwatering selection of tasty treats and more than enough to go around.  Not a bad bite on the table.

Runner upFreeform, for its delectable spread featuring Asian BBQ
Second runner upCrown Media Family Networks’ divine dinner

Best Data Insight -- BET

BET took a deep dive into the strategy behind and importance of the African-American TV series it has in development and the growing importance of Black Twitter.

Runner upScripps Networks -- Attitude and neuroscience research collide for the first time to show how individual TV program categories impact ad effectivenes.
Second runner upNickelodeon --Guests always leave Nick events with a wide variety of conclusions over how their target audience behaves.

Best Innovative Opportunity – BET

BET captivated the room with details of its Twitter habit study.  For many advertisers, this can be their ground floor entry into their first-ever spending directed at this community of color.

Runner upScripps Networks' AI device engagement (Alexa/Google Home/Siri)
Second runner up: Hulu’s interactive advertising/commerce over the TV set initiative
Honorable mentionComplex Networks’ brand partnerships

Best All-Around Upfront/NewFront event – Turner Networks and YouTube (a tie)

Runners up, in orderHulu, AMC Networks, National Geographic, Univision

That's all for this year, folks!

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