Upfront Wrap-Up: TV Network Chiefs Grapple With Uncertain Advertising Environment

If you strip away all the glitz, glamour, buzzy new show trailers and jokes from this long week of upfront presentations, what you’ll see is a bunch of network executives simply trying to keep their heads above water in this ever-changing TV industry.

In fact, it may have been ESPN’s Kenny Mayne who unintentionally spouted out what many in the TV industry could use as their mantra: “I don’t know how the hell we’re going to do it, but I’ll be working on it.”

Faced with declining linear television ratings (NBC, thanks to the Super Bowl, was the only network that saw any improvement this season in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic) and no end in sight to cord-cutting, network chiefs spent the past week trying to put advertiser fears at rest.

Also Read: CW Upfront: 5 Takeaways from the Network’s (Very Short) Presentation to Advertisers

But at least there is one thing that both advertisers and media companies can agree on: The way TV audiences are measured has to change.

“I still cannot believe I have to get up on this stage and talk about legacy measurement,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman, advertising sales and client partnerships, NBCUniversal, during the company’s presentation at Radio City Music Hall on Monday morning. “Aren’t we all tired of letting inertia rule our industry?”

But changing the way an entire industry has done business for decades can feel like trying to steer the Titanic away from that iceberg. They have to hope they turned the wheel early enough.

Also Read: CW’s Annual DC Crossover Will Include Batwoman, Visit Gotham City

“Let’s stop trying to measure everything using Nielsen. We’re so beyond that,” Barry Lowenthal, president of ad agency, The Media Kitchen, told TheWrap this week. “We measured exposure because we couldn’t do anything better than that.”

Nielsen has tried to include viewing on non-TV platforms with its Total Audience Delivery, but that measurement has so far failed to catch on with buyers and sellers. That has lead to the networks trying to come up with an answer themselves.

“The audience is there, we’re just simply not measuring them,” Kevin Reilly, Turner Entertainment Networks chief operating officer, argued to reporters following Turner’s upfront on Wednesday. “If you want to reach an audience on TV, which still is highly effective, nobody would debate it. What’s not effective is this measurement.”

Also Read: Stephen Colbert Mocks CBS’ Reboot Fever, Ugly Legal Battle With Viacom at Net’s Upfront

Although there has been a push towards “audience-based” buying, the majority of TV advertising is still purchased against Nielsen’s C3 metric, which measures how many viewers were tuned into the program during the commercial breaks, for up to three days after the broadcast. Yaccarino noted it was 11 years ago that the decision was made to use C3 as the main currency, back when “we used flip phones.”

But another media buyer told TheWrap that the solution shouldn’t be left exclusively to those doing the selling. “While some acknowledged the measurement is broken, not sure the rhetoric or solutions being showcased by the sellers is the answer,” said Shari Cohen, executive director of media investments for Mindshare.

The advent of streaming networks like Netflix and Hulu have trained viewers to expect fewer commercials, or none at all. That has had a domino effect on linear TV. Turner was among the first media companies that decided to cut back on the number of commercials it airs, and since then other networks like NBC and Fox have followed suit.

Also Read: ABC Upfront: 6 Takeaways From Lincoln Center Presentation to Advertisers

Fox unveiled its new plan for cutting back ad loads this season, introducing its new “JAZ Pods.” While that sounds like incomprehensible ad jargon, it simply means that for some of its shows, the commercial breaks will only have two ads, just the “A” and “Z” slots that run next to the actual program.

Joe Marchese, during Fox’s upfront, said that this new format will be used on a variety of Fox broadcast and cable channels, including FX’s new New York Times series “The Weekly” and certain Sunday nights on the broadcast network next season. He said this would be bring down the total of commercials by as much as 60 percent.

Reilly said he’s glad to see other networks follow their lead. “It has to happen, and we have to continue it,” he said of making the linear TV environment less commercial heavy. “TV has got to get to that place where there is less clutter, and that will be more effective for advertisers.”

The fact is, despite the confidence network executives shared on the upfront stage this week, nobody really knows where the media industry is headed. “We’re entering Mordor,” said Lowenthal. “What’s on the other side?”

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ABC Upfront: 6 Takeaways From Lincoln Center Presentation to Advertisers

If you strip away all the glitz, glamour, buzzy new show trailers and jokes from this long week of upfront presentations, what you’ll see is a bunch of network executives simply trying to keep their heads above water in this ever-changing TV industry.

In fact, it may have been ESPN’s Kenny Mayne who unintentionally spouted out what many in the TV industry could use as their mantra: “I don’t know how the hell we’re going to do it, but I’ll be working on it.”

Faced with declining linear television ratings (NBC, thanks to the Super Bowl, was the only network that saw any improvement this season in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic) and no end in sight to cord-cutting, network chiefs spent the past week trying to put advertiser fears at rest.

But at least there is one thing that both advertisers and media companies can agree on: The way TV audiences are measured has to change.

“I still cannot believe I have to get up on this stage and talk about legacy measurement,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman, advertising sales and client partnerships, NBCUniversal, during the company’s presentation at Radio City Music Hall on Monday morning. “Aren’t we all tired of letting inertia rule our industry?”

But changing the way an entire industry has done business for decades can feel like trying to steer the Titanic away from that iceberg. They have to hope they turned the wheel early enough.

“Let’s stop trying to measure everything using Nielsen. We’re so beyond that,” Barry Lowenthal, president of ad agency, The Media Kitchen, told TheWrap this week. “We measured exposure because we couldn’t do anything better than that.”

Nielsen has tried to include viewing on non-TV platforms with its Total Audience Delivery, but that measurement has so far failed to catch on with buyers and sellers. That has lead to the networks trying to come up with an answer themselves.

“The audience is there, we’re just simply not measuring them,” Kevin Reilly, Turner Entertainment Networks chief operating officer, argued to reporters following Turner’s upfront on Wednesday. “If you want to reach an audience on TV, which still is highly effective, nobody would debate it. What’s not effective is this measurement.”

Although there has been a push towards “audience-based” buying, the majority of TV advertising is still purchased against Nielsen’s C3 metric, which measures how many viewers were tuned into the program during the commercial breaks, for up to three days after the broadcast. Yaccarino noted it was 11 years ago that the decision was made to use C3 as the main currency, back when “we used flip phones.”

But another media buyer told TheWrap that the solution shouldn’t be left exclusively to those doing the selling. “While some acknowledged the measurement is broken, not sure the rhetoric or solutions being showcased by the sellers is the answer,” said Shari Cohen, executive director of media investments for Mindshare.

The advent of streaming networks like Netflix and Hulu have trained viewers to expect fewer commercials, or none at all. That has had a domino effect on linear TV. Turner was among the first media companies that decided to cut back on the number of commercials it airs, and since then other networks like NBC and Fox have followed suit.

Fox unveiled its new plan for cutting back ad loads this season, introducing its new “JAZ Pods.” While that sounds like incomprehensible ad jargon, it simply means that for some of its shows, the commercial breaks will only have two ads, just the “A” and “Z” slots that run next to the actual program.

Joe Marchese, during Fox’s upfront, said that this new format will be used on a variety of Fox broadcast and cable channels, including FX’s new New York Times series “The Weekly” and certain Sunday nights on the broadcast network next season. He said this would be bring down the total of commercials by as much as 60 percent.

Reilly said he’s glad to see other networks follow their lead. “It has to happen, and we have to continue it,” he said of making the linear TV environment less commercial heavy. “TV has got to get to that place where there is less clutter, and that will be more effective for advertisers.”

The fact is, despite the confidence network executives shared on the upfront stage this week, nobody really knows where the media industry is headed. “We’re entering Mordor,” said Lowenthal. “What’s on the other side?”

Related stories from TheWrap:

CW Upfront: 5 Takeaways from the Network's (Very Short) Presentation to Advertisers

Les Moonves Jokes About Messy Legal Drama at CBS Upfront: 'How's Your Week Been?'

ABC Upfront: 6 Takeaways From Lincoln Center Presentation to Advertisers

‘Good Behavior’: TNT Trying To “Properly Bring It To Conclusion” With Final Chapter

Despite solid reviews and a popular star, Michelle Dockery in her follow-up to hit Downton Abbey, TNT’s drama series Good Behavior never found a wide audience. Its Live+same day ratings have been low, a fraction of the second lowest-rated origina…

Despite solid reviews and a popular star, Michelle Dockery in her follow-up to hit Downton Abbey, TNT’s drama series Good Behavior never found a wide audience. Its Live+same day ratings have been low, a fraction of the second lowest-rated original drama series on the network. Still, the show has done some solid business in delayed viewing and on digital platforms, drawing younger viewers, and has become a cult favorite. “It has a passionate audience,” TNT and TBS…

TBS ‘Never Even Had a Chance’ to Nab ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ Kevin Reilly Says

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” fans rejoiced last week when NBC saved the Fox-canceled sitcom, picking up Season 6 for a midseason start. Among the extended “squad” members doing a happy dance was TBS president Kevin Reilly, who many thought would have a shot at bringing the critically acclaimed comedy to TBS since he developed the show during his time at Fox.

“I never even had the chance” to bid on the Universal Television series, Reilly told a group of reporters on Wednesday after Turner’s upfront event. Fox canceled “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” on Thursday, and fans erupted over the unpopular decision. By Friday, NBC announced it was bringing to show to its own airwaves.

With “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” only in the TV graveyard for one day, it would’ve been a quick call for Reilly. “I did get some incoming calls. I would’ve considered it, but I wasn’t going to do it overnight,” he added.

Also Read: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Save: ‘We Jumped on It Really Quickly,’ NBC Chief Bob Greenblatt Says

The Turner Entertainment Networks chief operating officer further stated that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” belongs on NBC since the show literally belongs to NBCUniversal. “Good for NBC, they stepped up,” he continued. “It’s their show and their studio.”

Nevertheless, Reilly was “very excited” that the show will come back for at least one more season. “It’s great people and great talent.”

Reilly elaborated a bit more on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” stating that they do own syndication rights to the cop comedy. “I’m not sure that there would be that much more value to have the originals,” he told TheWrap. While Turner’s TBS network has rescued canceled sitcoms in the past including “Cougar Town” and “American Dad,” Reilly said they’re more focused now on their own development pipeline.

Also Read: TNT’s ‘The Last Ship’ to End After Season 5

“TBS was a network that was about acquired product. We have taken huge steps to make it place that is about original product,” he continued. “It’s hard to then go back.”

However, he admitted that if he had an opportunity to rescue an animated series like Turner did with “American Dad” — which he actually canceled while he was the entertainment chief at Fox —  Reilly would “pick that up in a heartbeat.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Seth Meyers’ Best NBC Upfront Jokes Skewer ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Pickup, Matt Lauer Scandal

‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Saved? Other Networks and Platforms Have Already Expressed Interest

Why Fox Canceled ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ ‘The Mick’ and ‘The Last Man on Earth’

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” fans rejoiced last week when NBC saved the Fox-canceled sitcom, picking up Season 6 for a midseason start. Among the extended “squad” members doing a happy dance was TBS president Kevin Reilly, who many thought would have a shot at bringing the critically acclaimed comedy to TBS since he developed the show during his time at Fox.

“I never even had the chance” to bid on the Universal Television series, Reilly told a group of reporters on Wednesday after Turner’s upfront event. Fox canceled “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” on Thursday, and fans erupted over the unpopular decision. By Friday, NBC announced it was bringing to show to its own airwaves.

With “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” only in the TV graveyard for one day, it would’ve been a quick call for Reilly. “I did get some incoming calls. I would’ve considered it, but I wasn’t going to do it overnight,” he added.

The Turner Entertainment Networks chief operating officer further stated that “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” belongs on NBC since the show literally belongs to NBCUniversal. “Good for NBC, they stepped up,” he continued. “It’s their show and their studio.”

Nevertheless, Reilly was “very excited” that the show will come back for at least one more season. “It’s great people and great talent.”

Reilly elaborated a bit more on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” stating that they do own syndication rights to the cop comedy. “I’m not sure that there would be that much more value to have the originals,” he told TheWrap. While Turner’s TBS network has rescued canceled sitcoms in the past including “Cougar Town” and “American Dad,” Reilly said they’re more focused now on their own development pipeline.

“TBS was a network that was about acquired product. We have taken huge steps to make it place that is about original product,” he continued. “It’s hard to then go back.”

However, he admitted that if he had an opportunity to rescue an animated series like Turner did with “American Dad” — which he actually canceled while he was the entertainment chief at Fox —  Reilly would “pick that up in a heartbeat.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Seth Meyers' Best NBC Upfront Jokes Skewer 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Pickup, Matt Lauer Scandal

'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Saved? Other Networks and Platforms Have Already Expressed Interest

Why Fox Canceled 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine,' 'The Mick' and 'The Last Man on Earth'

Turner Asserts Its Reach Beyond TV Screen, Advertising Innovation: “We’re In This Together” — Upfronts

At Turner’s annual upfront at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, company head Kevin Reilly and ad-sales chief Donna Speciale emphasized the Turner networks’ reach beyond the TV screen and its efforts to reinvent the traditional TV advert…

At Turner’s annual upfront at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, company head Kevin Reilly and ad-sales chief Donna Speciale emphasized the Turner networks’ reach beyond the TV screen and its efforts to reinvent the traditional TV advertising model. “The industry spends a lot of time talking about the future,” Speciale said. “But talk is not action and we're not changing fast enough.” While Reilly described the company as being “trapped by C-3 ratings,” Speciale…

Samantha Bee Unveils Mid-Term Elections Mobile Game, Woos TBS Advertisers: “I Will Wear Your Stinky Product!” — Upfronts

Full Frontal host Samantha Bee made the most of her 5-minute segment during the Turner upfront, unveiling a mobile game aimed at stimulating voter turnout in the mid-term elections and getting off rapid-fire shots at an array of consumer brands.
&#8220…

Full Frontal host Samantha Bee made the most of her 5-minute segment during the Turner upfront, unveiling a mobile game aimed at stimulating voter turnout in the mid-term elections and getting off rapid-fire shots at an array of consumer brands. “I don’t just make a weekly TV show where I shriek my feelings about senators in a studio full of New Jersey tourists,” she said. “We are so much more than that.” In keeping with brand extensions like the show’s Not the White House…

Select CNN Shows to Air With Limited Commercial Interruption

The Cable News Network is about to have fewer interruptions.
“Select CNN programming” will soon follow in the footsteps of truTV, TNT, Adult Swim and Turner Sports with limited commercials, Turner announced Wednesday at its 2018 Upfronts pr…

The Cable News Network is about to have fewer interruptions.

“Select CNN programming” will soon follow in the footsteps of truTV, TNT, Adult Swim and Turner Sports with limited commercials, Turner announced Wednesday at its 2018 Upfronts presentation in New York.

“In 2015, Turner’s truTV was the first television network to announce limited commercial interruption within its programming and has since announced that by 2021 its entire total-day programming will be adopting the format,” the Time Warner-owned company said in a press release.

That limited commercial interruption initiative has since expanded to other networks in the Turner portfolio, including TNT, Adult Swim and Turner Sports. “It will soon make its way to select CNN programming,” the press release said.

CNN will have six new original series debuting next year that could get the limited interruption treatment, including “Chasing Life with Sanjay Gupta,” “Tricky Dick,” “American Dynasties: The Bushes,” “American Style” (working title), “Once in a Great City: Detroit 1962-64” and “The Redemption Project.”

The CNN 2018-19 slate will also see new seasons of original programming like “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” “United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell,” “This is Life with Lisa Ling,” “The History of Comedy,” and “Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies.” July will see the premiere of documentary “The 2000s,” and the four-part miniseries “1968: The Year that Changed in America” premiering this month.

“We can no longer sustain relationships based solely on TV viewership. Today, we are redefining what an advertising partnership should be measured against, modernizing it for the way fans engage with our premium content. And, we’re simplifying it into a single media plan,” said Turner’s president of ad sales Donna Speciale.

She added: “Let’s stop leaving money on the table and start creating brand experiences that not only produce much greater results on the bottom line, but also inspire fans in new, exciting ways.”

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DOJ Argues AT&T Should Sell DirecTV or Turner if Time Warner Deal Goes Through

The U.S. Department of Justice argued that should AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner get approval, the satellite provider should be forced to sell off either DirecTV or Turner.

The government made the argument in its post-trial brief that was unsealed on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Judge Richard Leon is planning to make his ruling on the case, whose trial wrapped last week, by June 12, ahead of the merger’s June 21 deadline. 

Also Read: DOJ Pushes ‘Alternative’ AT&T-Time Warner Merger in Closing Arguments

The DOJ’s main arguments in the brief were that if AT&T owned Time Warner it would give it too much power over carriage fee negotiations with DirecTV competitors and cheaper, live TV streaming packages, even going so far as suggesting that AT&T could withhold those channels.

“The evidence demonstrated that the bulk (though not all) of the anticompetitive effects flow from the combination of Turner with DirecTV,” the Justice Department said in Tuesday’s brief, according to Reuters. The government estimated the increased cost to industry rivals at $580 million a year, which it argued should be deemed illegal and stop the deal.

The DOJ’s brief echoes its closing argument from the trial, where Justice Department attorney Craig Conrath argued for “alternative” solutions should the deal go through, including AT&T only purchasing a portion of Time Warner.

Also Read: Jeff Bewkes Says DOJ’s Key Antitrust Argument Against AT&T-Time Warner Merger Is ‘Ridiculous’

The telecom giant offered to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion in late 2016, but the deal has been in limbo ever since, with the U.S. government suing to block the deal last fall. AT&T and Time Warner have argued similar “vertical mergers” have been met with little resistance by the Justice Department in the last 40 years.

Shares of AT&T were down Tuesday afternoon, dipping a little more than 1 percent to $31.68 per share. Time Warner, after opening at $92.35 per share, is virtually steady at $92.36 per share.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Time Warner Tops Q1 Earnings Forecasts Despite Rising TV Costs

Who Is Winning in DoJ’s Case Against AT&T-Time Warner?

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the U.S. Gov’s Lawsuit to Kill the AT&T-Time Warner Merger

The U.S. Department of Justice argued that should AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner get approval, the satellite provider should be forced to sell off either DirecTV or Turner.

The government made the argument in its post-trial brief that was unsealed on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Judge Richard Leon is planning to make his ruling on the case, whose trial wrapped last week, by June 12, ahead of the merger’s June 21 deadline. 

The DOJ’s main arguments in the brief were that if AT&T owned Time Warner it would give it too much power over carriage fee negotiations with DirecTV competitors and cheaper, live TV streaming packages, even going so far as suggesting that AT&T could withhold those channels.

“The evidence demonstrated that the bulk (though not all) of the anticompetitive effects flow from the combination of Turner with DirecTV,” the Justice Department said in Tuesday’s brief, according to Reuters. The government estimated the increased cost to industry rivals at $580 million a year, which it argued should be deemed illegal and stop the deal.

The DOJ’s brief echoes its closing argument from the trial, where Justice Department attorney Craig Conrath argued for “alternative” solutions should the deal go through, including AT&T only purchasing a portion of Time Warner.

The telecom giant offered to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion in late 2016, but the deal has been in limbo ever since, with the U.S. government suing to block the deal last fall. AT&T and Time Warner have argued similar “vertical mergers” have been met with little resistance by the Justice Department in the last 40 years.

Shares of AT&T were down Tuesday afternoon, dipping a little more than 1 percent to $31.68 per share. Time Warner, after opening at $92.35 per share, is virtually steady at $92.36 per share.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Time Warner Tops Q1 Earnings Forecasts Despite Rising TV Costs

Who Is Winning in DoJ's Case Against AT&T-Time Warner?

Here's Everything You Need to Know About the U.S. Gov's Lawsuit to Kill the AT&T-Time Warner Merger