Simon Says: Keep Those Upfronts Movin'!

By Upfronts/NewFronts Archives
Cover image for  article: Simon Says: Keep Those Upfronts Movin'!

As most episodes of the classic TV series Rawhide reach their conclusion, Eric Fleming (as cattle trail boss Gil Favor) sits atop his steed, checking out the Western land ahead.  Then, with sure voice, he gives the program's signature declaration: "Head 'em up! Move em' out!"  Cue scenes of cowboys and cattle resuming their journey, accompanied by that classic theme warbled by Frankie Laine.

Upfront/NewFront season has arrived once -- and with it the annual trek of covering dozens of events.  Scheduled over a three-month period from early March to mid-May in New York City (and in some cases Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and elsewhere), programming services craft these events to highlight the content they will offer viewers over the next year.  They are out to win advertiser commitments in advance of when viewers can see that content.  Hence the terms Upfront and Digital Content NewFront (the latter is specific to digitally distributed services).

What keeps me on this long and winding trail, more than a decade after starting it, is how these events have evolved along the way.  They are no longer just an avenue to deliver what's new in a network's schedule this fall or next winter.  They have become a prime showcase for the participating companies' programming mantras or philosophies.  Will those mantras get doubled down, morphed into other things or change direction over the coming months?  What marketing tactics will come into play?  How -- and how soon -- will new technologies from smart TV sets to augmented reality and artificial intelligence-driven voice controls be incorporated into the game plan?  Upfront/NewFront events, whether splashy affairs or meat-and-potatoes info debriefs (usually geared to journalists) can provide those answers to those questions.

The coverage you'll read here at MediaVillage will explore both the content and context of these events and reveal how effectively they were presented and received.

We sum it all up with our coveted Jacks ratings, which grade specific elements of each presentation, as well as its overall impact.  Those elements are rated as follows:

5 Jacks -- Excellent

4 Jacks -- Very Good

3 Jacks -- Good

2 Jacks -- Fair

1 Jack -- Poor

0 Jacks -- Don't go there!

We touch a lot of bases in both words and Jacks -- the presentation itself; where the event takes place; the amount and scope of news/information offered; how the host or hosts operate; celebrity participation and performances.

Two new categories were added last year, dealing with innovative opportunities advertisers or network affiliates could engage in, and data insights, usually picked up from audience research portions of the presentation.  Both categories are back this go-round.

We also make room for brief overviews of the food served up during or following these events.  However, given the wide latitude of taste buds out there, our food ratings do not influence the overall Jacks score.

Now that you have the purpose and ground rules of our Upfront/NewFront coverage, let's get this journey started.  First up: Nickelodeon.

Head 'em up … move 'em out!

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