If you had to pick one reliable high point from the upstream each spring, when American content conglomerates court Madison Avenue with the best and brightest of their upcoming television shows, chances are it would be Jimmy Kimmel‘s stand-up routine during the Disney presentation. In 2019, The New York Times declared, “Jimmy Kimmel saves Disney’s Supersize Upfront,” while last year’s Kimmel monologue made headlines for his R-rated Netflix roast. “You know, every year I say, ‘Fuck Netflix.’ And this year it’s come true!’, the ABC star cracked late night, as he pierced the streamer for his mega-scrutinized subscriber who stumbled into 2022. likes Bridgerton. How much do you think they’ll love it when it’s interrupted every four minutes by a tech commercial, you million dollar assholes?”
When Disney takes over Manhattan’s North Javits Center on Tuesday for the run-up to 2023, there won’t be any side-splitting hijinks. That’s because, obviously, Kimmel won’t be there, a source close to ABC confirmed. (Disney, which owns ABC, had no comment.) We confirmed that, too Jimmy Fallon And Set Meyers won’t blow it during NBCUniversal’s shindig at Radio City Music Hall. Like other top television talents, the late night hosts will sit out the festivals this year thanks to the two-week-old writers’ strike, which has already succeeded in rooting a key in television’s annual advertising bonanza -industry. (Stephen Colbert, whose show, like the others, has gone dark, didn’t have to cancel because CBS parent company Paramount Global had already decided to forego the long-running upfront at Carnegie Hall. And by the way, the late-night hosts are all WGA members themselves.)
“Very few actors are going to show up, very few writers are going to show up,” said a front-line WGA member of the upfronts, which kick off Monday morning. “They will be dry and there will be pickets.”
Once a highlight on the media calendar, the upfronts have been feeling a little tired lately; After all, what exec wants to take the stage in front of thousands of ad buyers to tout their exciting fall airing lineup when they know all the action is streaming? Now, after a few years of pandemic-related disruptions, the writers’ strike has the potential to deliver the final blow to this cultural institution. You won’t hear them say this publicly, but privately some of the most important people in the TV world are already whispering that the upfronts aren’t as important as they used to be – and a strike-induced downsizing could only help that discussion. fuel.
“Los Angeles is clearly ground zero for strike activity. But there has also been a lot of action on the East Coast. We were told that the first major demonstrations in New York at the start of the strike drew between 700 and 1,000 people Last week, a few hundred strikers and supporters showed up for a rally at HBO, and smaller pickets stop production by Billions And Daredevil“We are doing everything we can to disrupt production,” the WGA source said, adding, “The guild plans to make our presence felt at all times.”
They got a head start in the first few days of the strike during the new fronts, the digital cousin of the upfronts. Bupkis star Eddie Falcon was set to appear on stage at NBCU’s Peacock newfront, but upon learning WGA would pick the event, she gave one of her members the go-ahead to tweet the news that she would be canceling her performance. “Falko told him.
In addition to battling swarms of screenwriters waving placards and singing chants like, “DISNEY, SHOWTIME, HBO, WITHOUT OUR SCRIPTS YOU DON’T HAVE A SHOW,” the suits have had to revise their strategies to varying degrees beforehand. with the presentations at Disney, NBCU, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox Corporation told us that the plan was to focus more on news, sports and reality programming. companies “There’s going to be a focus on things that aren’t scripted in terms of what you see onstage. Everyone seems to be making some version of that.”
And then there’s Netflix, the “bad guy,” in the words of The New York Times, who has “emerged as an avatar for the writers’ complaints”. since 2019. But as of Thursday, the company chose to cancel its in-person showcase in favor of a virtual one. We heard executives at the streamer were concerned about WGA’s plans to pre-select its first ever. A source familiar with the decision cited the NYPD’s fears about pedestrian safety. “They feel the pressure here,” said Nick Mandernach, a WGA member who helps coordinate the picking outside Hollywood’s historic Sunset Bronson Studios where Netflix has set up shop. “Wherever they go, whatever they do, we’ll be there.”
Either way, the in-person event would have been rather understated by Netflix standards. The Paris Theater seats only 571 people; the theater at Madison Square Garden, where Warners will pitch to ad buyers, on the other hand, has room for several thousand. And it looks like the virtual Netflix upfront will have even less wattage than what the company originally planned: our source adds that Netflix has decided not to showcase any talent during the presentation.
Plans for all presentations were still in motion as we were wrapping up this story on Friday. But a source familiar with Disney’s beforehand said the event will go ahead as planned, and even talent will be on hand. A second source, however, told us that talent involved in scripted projects is pulling out of their scheduled appearances.
One more thing: In a surprise plot twist befitting a Hollywood script, NBCU suddenly has more headaches than a bunch of angry picketers. On Thursday night, just three days before the company’s presentation was supposed to kick off the entire preliminary shebang on Monday morning , the news leaked that NBCU’s head of advertising, Linda Yaccarino– a fixture in the advertising world known to dazzle the upstream crowd with her lavish outfits – was in conversation with Elon Musk to become Twitter’s CEO. (Trumpy Twitter people immediately pounced on her apparently MAGA-adjacent bonafides.) On Friday, NBCU confirmed that Yaccarino, the person who was supposed to run NBCU’s Radio City showcase, would be leaving the company immediately , and Musk confirmed her hiring in a subsequent tweet. Like Puck’s Matt Belloni put it in the latest edition of his newsletter: ‘Head of a television company looking to generate revenue on the eve of the upfronts? cheeky.”