Behind The Sign: A Look Inside A TV Network Upfront


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Once a year, the tables are turned on advertisers when TV networks are tasked with selling them their product, that product being their upcoming television season. These presentations are known as the Upfronts. It is when each major TV network presents its upcoming TV season to major advertisers in the hopes of getting their advertising dollars upfront.  We are taking you on a look inside one of the TV Network upfront events this year!

What The Upfronts Are
All the Upfront presentations are delivered one at a time, spread out over the course of a few days, and usually land on the third week of May (the dates get a little more flexible once you start factoring in the cable networks too).  The presentation reveals the network’s fall schedules, launch dates for new programming, and special clips of new content. Each year these presentations become more and more elaborate with networks trying harder and harder to make an impression. So much so that now, in addition to their television content, the Upfronts often include meet-and-greets with their talent and concerts put on by music’s hottest acts. While the main presentations occur in New York City, most networks host an additional event in LA where they’ll stream their Upfront for those who couldn’t make it to the opposite coast.

An Insider's Look
As a Brand Agent at Hollywood Branded, I’m responsible for getting our clients into the best productions. So, naturally, it’s my job to know about those upcoming television shows, and as a result, I’ve been paying close attention to the Upfronts through constant email alerts and website notifications. This year I joined a few members of our agency to attend the LA Upfront for one of my favorite networks, The CW, and let me tell you, my hourly email updates don’t do the live presentation any justice.  We're giving you a peak so you can better determine which shows are the right fit for your brand.  

The Location
The event was held in the banquet hall of one of Beverly Hills’ best hotels, The Montage. Just the line for the valet alone was a sign that even the day’s unusually cold and rainy weather couldn’t keep attendees away. The attire of the guests is best described as office-chic; not super formal, but definitely a step up from one’s usual pantsuit. Once inside, we were escorted to the grand room and asked to find a table. Our team was able to steal a great one close to the stage where we chatted amongst ourselves over coffee for a few minutes before the show started. Because New York’s presentation began at 7 am PST, there was a few hours delay. In keeping promptly with its invitation, at 11 am, a few of the West Coast network executives came to the stage, thanked everyone for coming, and surprised a few by announcing that, while most of the talent was in New York, some were joining us in L.A.

Talent On Stage
At this point three actors from three different hit CW shows took the stage; The 100’s Christopher Larkin, The Originals’ Leah Pipes, and Beauty & the Beast’s Austin Basis. The three quickly bowed and waved, and let it be known that they’d be sitting upfront (no pun intended) to take pictures and answer questions after the presentation. Now that the introductions had occurred, it was time to turn our attention toward the large screen on stage and start the presentation. 

Even Music Performances
The CW Upfronts started with an awesome two-song show from Of Monsters and Men. They got the crowd really excited with their hit song Little Talks before turning the stage over to the network’s EVP of sales, Rob Tuck. Tuck quickly got the crowd drinking the CW cool-aid by talking about how the past season was the CW’s best ever and how they’re attracting a much more diverse audience, most notably, more men. Tuck then introduces network president, Mark Pedowitz, and the two share a celebratory high-five before exchanging roles on stage.
Pedowitz wastes no time reiterating Tuck’s compliments to the network and emphasizes The Flash by dramatically making it known that it is the CW’s “Most. Watched. Show. Ever 
However, it doesn’t take long before talk of Jane the Virgin’s critical success comes into play, providing a perfect introduction for the quick recap clip of the season before the cast takes the stage.
With Jane the Virgin’s top talent now front and center, it’s hard not to describe the CW’s excitement as anything other than contagious. The main character Gina Rodriguez speaks on behalf of her cast when she profusely thanks both the network and the advertisers for allowing them to do what they love. 
This pattern continues throughout: Pedowitz discusses one of the network’s shows, a recap clip is shown, and the show’s cast is welcomed on stage to give a brief, but all very genuine ‘thank you’.
The same pattern occurred for the new shows the CW was introducing, as well. The first new show introduced is the quirky new dramedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The very funny teaser introduces the show’s concept of, you guessed it, a crazy ex-girlfriend whose obsessive ways get her into all sorts of trouble. Oh, and the show’s a musical too!
The second new show to be introduced is the much darker, apocalyptic thriller Containment. It’s about a present-day viral outbreak that leaves one whole city on complete lockdown, and the devastation that ensues.
The third newest addition to the CW team is the superhero powerhouse, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The action-packed series pulled its characters from its brother series The Flash and Arrow. If the success of those two shows is any indication, this newest hero tale is not one to miss.
After the introductions to its newest series, the CW president announces its fall primetime schedule. (You’ll notice that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the only new show airing in the fall. Containment and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow will get a mid-season premiere). Pedowitz then thanks the audience for coming and says that he looks forward to working with them on the network’s exciting things to come.

The Celebrity Run-In
It was at this point, when the room’s lights turned on, that we LA folk remembered that we were not watching it live. A DJ quickly began lightening the mood with poppy music as the room slowly emptied, alerting us that lunch was being served right outside. Our table promptly followed suit while I stayed behind to watch our belongings. I remembered the talent sitting just a few tables away and peeked over to find them lively chatting with all who wanted to converse. I was surprised by how interpersonal and eager to interact with the three were. While I was waiting for the rest of my table to return from the luxurious buffet, one of the actors, Christopher Larkin, came over and asked me if there was room at our table for him and a friend. His manager quickly showed him a seat at a different table, but for those three seconds, I felt like Regina George had control over the cool kids’ lunch table! After everyone ate, we spent the remainder of the event chatting with our agency’s friends at the CW, thanking them for their invitation and discussing which shows were everyone’s favorite!
Even remotely, you could tell that the excited energy the network fostered was very intentional. You were left very much looking forward to the CW’s future, and eager to be a part of it. Well done, CW, if I were an advertiser, I’d give you my money!

Product Placement In The New Shows
So what show gets you most excited this fall?  Let us know below!
Are you interested in integrating product placement into your entertainment marketing mix, but simply don’t know where to start? There is so much more to product placement than you may think,  and it is important to be educated about the key tactics to best fit your brand. Download our Product Placement 101 Infographic today to start learning more!
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