Now that the season of Upfront and Digital Content NewFront presentations is behind us, here is a final ranking of them based on our reviews by Simon Applebaum and Ed Martin of those many and varied events.
The list below is in order of the Jack ratings awarded to each event.
The coveted Jacks ratings are as follows:
5 Jacks – Excellent
4 Jacks – Very Good
3 Jacks – Good
2 Jacks – Fair
1 Jack – Poor
0 Jacks – Worse than bad
To read the actual reviews of each event simply click on the company and its Jack rating.
From the Department of Redundancy Department: CBS once again was the broadcast network to beat during Upfront Week, thanks to its time-tested three-pronged approach to introducing and promoting its new season schedule on its day.
Like CBS, Fox continues to fully embrace the idea that an Upfront presentation is a once-a-year, all-purpose promotional event that, when handled properly, is a win for networks, talent, advertisers and the press alike.
Nick has mastered the art of upfront tale-telling in an hour or less. More notable: doing so in an engaging, versatile manner.
What worked: The overall graphic look, Sales and Marketing President Cliff Marks' contained enthusiasm and a few choice trailers, including the latest from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” What didn't work: Not seeing “First Look” in action somehow.
ABC gets our vote this year for Most Improved Upfront Presentation. Once again this was the only broadcast presentation that we chose to watch at home via live stream, so crisp and clear it allowed all of the excitement on stage at Avery Fisher Hall to come through.
The CW offered the briefest presentation of Upfront Week, and it once again was a can’t-miss, high energy show.
Outstanding hosts, presentation focus and look.
Sadly, this could have been one of those very rare 5 Jacks events (like CBS most years at Carnegie Hall). On every level but one, YouTube's Brandcast worked to the hilt, thanks to sensational production values and pace and the parade of executives/commentators highlighted by John Green. But the one level that did not work was huge -- not offering any information about this enterprise's future. When it comes to Upfronts or NewFronts that's one element that should never be overlooked.
All-star mix of executive point-making, talent mixing with sports celebrities like Darrelle Revis and Dwayne Wade, and top production values. Special kudos for starting out with the National Anthem performed by Jordin Sparks with a local color guard unit.
The extravagant stage antics may be gone for now, but the presentation and news value was on solid ground. Special kudos to Discovery's video clip producers who year after year deliver among the best vignettes of any Upfront event. Two standouts here: The opening "Moment of Pure Discovery" in honor of the flagship channel's 30th anniversary this summer, and Discovery ad sales chief Joe Abruzzese's amusing homage to the Jean-Claude Van Damme "Only Time" message.
A fine demonstration of packing message and the supporting news in a reasonable time. And Rucker, in front of the green space connecting the other side of the NY Times building, carried on the tradition of memorable musical CMT Upfront events that have in recent years featured The Band Perry, Sheryl Crow, Lady Antebellum and others.
We'll leave thinking about a network targeting a life stage instead of specific age, gender or multicultural viewership to you. In terms of environment, presentation values and news, everything was showcased in appealing fashion. Having the network’s celebrities, including the casts of “Pretty Little Liars” and "Baby Daddy," mingle with the crowd afterwards was another big plus.
Solid model of how to structure and deliver a presentation, with better execution this year on programming clips (the first Travel Channel reel was beautifully edited). Leave it to Alice Tully Hall to deliver on the space and the food.
Dynamic pacing and plenty of news to chew over, especially the different scripted programming roads Telemundo and NBC Universo will take.
Well-organized and paced effort with good talking points and much news layered throughout.
What worked: Big "Unleash Content 365" video wall welcoming attendees, featuring 365 different videos simultaneously; great Cinerama-like graphic displays, commentary from new AOL video president Dermot McCormack (formerly of Viacom), and no trace of the transportation fiasco that clouded last year's event. What didn't work: “Park Bench” host/”Boardwalk Empire” star Steve Buscemi's sketch, which started nowhere and went downhill from there.
What worked: Classy setting inside Gilder Lehrman Hall, kicking off with both photo and video montages; roundtable with a trio of Nat Geo photographers, each demonstrating the work with a slide presentation (big improvement over last year's event, where each subject rambled on and on...) What didn't work: Premiere dates, anyone?
What worked: Charming delivery by CEO Travis Reid and willingness by him and his executive colleagues to do a pre-event debrief for press. What didn't work: A bland-tasting appetizer here and there.
What worked: Overall pacing of the presentation, moving seamlessly from speaker to videos and branded content involving Gilette and Wal-Mart; marching band and dancers opening the event to "Get Ready,” a big finish using video highlights of fan event at Hard Rock the night before set to "How Do You Like Me Now?" (Kudos to the production crew for a quick overnight turnaround on that one.) What didn't work: There was no on-screen identification of Whistle executives and speakers.
Spike made the most of a presentation that was strong on new direction and programming development but weak on critical specifics (such as debut dates).
A bright, well-paced snapshot of the network and how its game focus is expanding. Generous celebrity face time was a plus.
Smooth overview of what all three networks will bring to their viewers this summer and beyond. As for E!, new programming details are coming soon.
Winning combination of space, celebrity talent on hand and focus on the network's big play for Millennials. Had USA thrown in some Q&A time the grade would easily be 4 Jacks or better.
First network so far this Upfront season to publicly ask agencies to pull spending from elsewhere. Bold tactic for Pop, so short into its new existence as fandom-celebrating channel. Schwartz did his best to make the case.
Nice to have TV One back in public via an upfront event, nicer to make it happen inside the best use of the Mills space in a long while. With a tastier lunch and appropriate serving and this would have been a 4 Jacks event at the least.
Beautiful venue, the pace and Jessie J's workout made the event go. On the other hand, left the Beacon with mixed feelings about leading off with the “Scream” clip and disappointment with the lack of detail about those 85 projects in development.
Good change of pace from the other late March/April presentations geared to journalists.
The musical content balanced out a presentation solid on celebration and encouraging ad support but uneven with its original programming details.
What worked: The "Who Are You?" theme (all about finding your voice) and anytime chief content officer Erin McPherson talked from one side of the stage to the other. What didn't work: Content creators appearing on stage without the audience knowing much about them.
What worked: Stylish, modern set, plenty of clips and an opening video exploring how NewFronts would operate in the hands of that oft-spoken about Millennial audience. Some ideas: Vice throws a Queen Mary bash, and “The Hunger Games” go live. What didn't work: No words on “The New Yorker Presents,” CNE's new series for Amazon Studios. Also could have used another minute or two to detail a growing TV business (four series in production, 25 in development and a recently-announced first-look deal with 21st Century-Fox).
Scaled-down exploration of the digital media marketplace continues to be a mixed bag, but this edition scored more than not. Good stage display and videos.
What worked: Fast-paced presentation, eye-appealing stage filled from one end to the other with books, clothes and memorabilia. What didn't work: No specifics on premiere dates.
Different presentation approach, supplemented by outstanding graphic displays making the most of that IMAX/Cinerama look. Some revelations on series under consideration at these networks would have increased the Jack rating.
Polished effort which raised the bar with President Clinton's presence. On the flip side, nothing on the future direction of El Rey Network and Fusion beyond brief sizzle reels.
Happily, NBC’s Upfront presentation was back at Radio City Music Hall after a sorry sidetrack last year over to the inconvenient and uncomfortable Javits Center. There was nothing particularly wrong about this event, but it wasn’t all that memorable, either.
That advertising section jarred the pace and tone set by Seinfeld, the Sony executives and a nice bunch of video clips.
What worked: The “what we announce, we'll produce” initiative from Defy executives, good mix of pitches and video clips, showcase of “Prank It Forward” (the breakout short-form series where the pranks lead to inspirational outcomes). What didn't work: All that darkness en route to the space.
What worked: "Gotta Share," a catchy musical spoof of social media usage from group Improv Everywhere. What didn't work: That scripted interview (covered in an earlier column) involving three of Collective's fashion/lifestyle hosts and a Harper's Bazaar editor. If you didn't glance at the teleprompter in the back, you'd assume this interview was off the cuff from start to finish -- which was NOT the case. )
Solid offering, and it was nice to see executives let down their guard in song or dance.
What worked: Great tuna sliders and watermelon juice. What didn't work: Dark, spooky setting as people ate pre-presentation lunch; no on-screen graphics giving executive names/titles, in-and-out audio problems with on-air talent.
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