Cablers add sizzle to sell

Let’s face it — upfront presentations have always been as much about the free booze and big shrimp as they are about programming strategy and ratings highlights.

In the past few years, as cablers have invaded the week that was once the sole province of broadcast nets, the sizzle factor of the events has stepped up a few notches. After all, if you’re late to the party you’d better throw a heck of a party. That’s the guiding principle for USA Network this year as it invades broadcast week for the first time. USA faces the extra hurdle of going at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, making it the last event of the four-day marathon.

USA plans to rock Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall with perfs from Erykah Badu and the Dap-Kings and DJ Mark Ronson. Appearances by a few of the “WWE Raw” wrestlers and a slew of other USA talent will probably be enough to keep over-fed, over-watered buyers and journos from dozing off.

But Turner Broadcasting will do its best to tire out the Madison Avenue pack the day before with its multiple presentations. Call it a dawn-to-dawn strategy. TNT and TBS start the day at 10 a.m. at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where they’re hoping to overcome last year’s massive audiovisual snafus that hampered the presentation (but made for great copy and valiant ad-libbing by Turner Entertainment topper Steve Koonin and prexy Michael Wright).

At noon, comes an opulent lunch at Del Posto with Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter and a host of other Turner talent. After buyers take a detour to CBS’ Carnegie Hall show at 4 p.m., they’ll reconvene at 9 p.m. for Adult Swim’s not-to-be-missed bacchanal at Roseland Ballroom. Last year, Adult Swim impressed by landing Jay-Z as a headliner. The rap theme continues this year with an appearance by T.I., but the real attraction is always the setting and decor conjured by the net that brings us “Squidbillies” and “Metalocalypse.”

But in a clear sign of intramural competish among the Turner cablers, TruTV is upping the ante with its own “Hang After Party” at Providence on West 57th Street. (The invite is billed “Party All Night. Sleep All Day.”) It could be a raucous affair — just imagine the “Operation Repo” and “Hardcore Pawn” folks after a few drinks.

For the broadcasters, it’s pretty much impossible to top the annual rapid-fire roast of the biz provided by Jimmy Kimmel at ABC’s event (even if CBS did have the Who perform one year).

Among Kimmel’s highlights from last year: “On May 30th, we’re premiering a show called ‘Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.’ This is a show where we take people who are too fat for ‘The Biggest Loser’ and make affordable housing out of them.”

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