Upfront Update: GMC/Aspire's Bus Stop; Future Forecasting At The Weather Channel - Simon Applebaum

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Cover image for  article: Upfront Update: GMC/Aspire's Bus Stop; Future Forecasting At The Weather Channel - Simon Applebaum

Our Upfront pair for review in this column is, as a lyric from The Patty Duke Show goes, different as night and day.

GMC TV/Aspire

Venue : As other channels park their events inside facilities all over Manhattan, GMC TV (changing its title to Up June 1) literally parks on the street. Network executives use a tour bus to make their points, a two-room vehicle with tables and video screens. This year as last, the bus catered toUPlifitng+entertainmentvisitors outside Bryant Park on W. 40th St., with crusty shrimp, veggie sticks and salad among the delectables. The walls inside and decor outside were filled with plays on the new name ("Shake It Up"/"Powered Up"), and Start Me Up from The Rolling Stones played during the pre-presentation lunch. Grade: 4 Jacks

Presentation : Vice chairman Brad Siegel did double duty, showcasing what's ahead for UP as well as for Aspire, the Magic Johnson-owned channel GMC assists on marketing and advertising sales. Up exists as "the uplifting entertainment destination, value-affirming TV, multicultural and multigenerational," while Aspire, two months away from marking its first anniversary, "will be the platform for the next generation of African-American groundbreakers," Siegel said. Both represent "lunge-proof TV, meaning you don't have to lunge for the remote" and turn elsewhere. On carriage, Up expects to break 70 million homes by the end of 2013 (from 62.1 million homes now), with Aspire wrapping the year with 18-20 million homes (from 15 million). Several presentation videos stressed the value of advertisers participating in family-friendly entertainment, while Siegel hinted that for Up, sponsors involved with the Alliance For Family Entertainment may partner up on original scripted series. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

News : Up will launch a Saturday night "Original Playhouse" on a weekly basis this summer or fall, increasing the presence of its popular stage plays. Two original reality series will start this summer: Family Addition, about adoption, with Leigh Anne Tuohy, the subject of the Oscar-winning filmThe Blind Spot, and Bullock Family Ranch. Some 40 original scripted/unscripted series are under development at Up, and one Miracle Hunters, will get a tryout as a special thisGMC%2FAspirefall. At least seven made-for movies will premiere between May and the end of 2013, including two Christmas tales. Up also will get TV premiere rights to Life of A King, a film starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as a reformed chess whiz coming to theaters this summer (Up served as co-producer.) On Aspire's year two calendar: premieres ofExhale(relationship talk series), We Got Next(stand-up/sketch comedy showcase) and two series involving the United Negro College Fund. Special note: Up issued a press release on its announcements, while Aspire did not. Grade: 4 Jacks

Host : Given the need to represent two channels instead of one (Aspire executives were unavailable to attend, due to a meeting elsewhere), Siegel gave Up and Aspire equal due as growing sources of family-friendly content and diversity. Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4 Jacks This bus stopover proves you don't always need a big stage, eye-catching scenery or visual effects to score points about a network's (two in this case) direction.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

The Weather Channel

Venue : For its first such event since 2008, Weather Channel went with the Mandarin Ballroom, on the 36th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Time Warner Center. This rarely-used location for Upfronts has a compact, intimate surrounding with table seating. After attendees enjoyed a breakfast buffet in the lobby, they found a stage with blue umbrellas on the back wall. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Presentation : Here's an early nominee for most unique opening--Choral Chameleon, a groupdressed in white shirts and tan slacks, walking on stage and, using their voices and body language, simulated a severe rainstorm (jumping up/down to creating thunder). Bobby McFerrin would have liked this. From there, TWC management and on-air forecasters Jim Cantore and Maria LaRosa documented all the ways (current and future) their service exists as trusted authority for weather information. Chief executive officer David Kenny urged advertisers to reach out and expand their support because weather matters more than ever, some 50 million people Kenny termed "weather enthusiasts" have daily forecasts matter most, and the channel is rededicating itself to "make a better viewing environment." Grade:4 Jacks

News : An upgraded mix of technology and computer graphics will allow viewers to see their local forecast the moment they switch on TWC 24/7 (on one side of the screen, as a horizontal banner at the bottom, or both) before the end of 2013. Both formats will have room for advertiser logos or videos. Primetime hours will feature more weekly series, while a Weather Set Go daypart will dominate mornings. New series arriving by September include Secrets Of The Earth, Weather That Changed The World and Strangest Weather On Earth. All these series and others will emphasize science developments along with weather, added TWC president David Clark. The long-running Local On The 8s feature (local forecasts every 10 minutes) has a facelift coming, with on-camera hosts involved for the first time. Some developments, such as Weather Set Go and the Local Onmakeover, left you wishing more details set in stone. Grade: 3.5 Jacks

Host : Duties were scattered among Cantore, LaRosa and the TWC executives, all handling their portions well. Grade: 4 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4 Jacks A well-crafted presentation (leading off in extremely creative manner) with exciting news of what's ahead this fall (24/7 local info anytime you start watching, the Local On The 8's facelift)--and leaving you with few details over their execution.

5 Jacks - Excellent
4 Jacks - Very Good
3 Jacks - Good
2 Jacks - Fair
1 Jack - Poor
0 Jacks -Worse than bad

Next up: Bravo and Discovery Communications...Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. Tomorrow runs live Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific Time onwww.blogtalkradio.com, with replays available atwww.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. A weekly TV series edition will soon premiere on the new UBC-TV network.

Have a question or reaction? E-mail it tosimonapple04@yahoo.com, or tweet @UBCSimonTWBT.

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