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With ‘Front’-apalooza Finally Over, Madison Avenue Digs In

Surely there is some hardy soul somewhere on Madison Avenue braving the wilds of Manhattan to attend every NewFront and upfront presentation, a period which culminates this week with pitches from the broadcasters. When cable and digital players are also taken into account, there must be at least 50 of these events. That’s a lot of outstretched hands asking advertisers to part with their marketing dollars.

This can’t be the new normal, is it? NBCUniversal had the right idea combining all of its properties into one, shall we say, superfront. Such is the incredibly fragmented media landscape we find ourselves in today.

We’ve come a long way from 1957, when the first upfront was held. No footage of this historic occasion is known but I’m picturing Don Draper, scotch in hand, looking bored as some network suit drones on about demographic trends posted on the easel beside him.

How times have changed. While the scotch is still plentiful, just looking back over the past few years is evidence enough of the dramatic differences in the ways programmers tell their own stories. There will be no surer indication of how surreal it’s all getting when we see the broadcasters take up as much energy talking up their new series orders as they do their data capabilities, which will allow marketers to more effectively target

When the smoke clears from Frontapalooza, it’s going to be interesting to follow the ad-spending trail. As inexorable as the move from TV to digital might seem, the latter camp has gotten so much flak for serious issues from click fraud to viewability that the shift probably won’t be as pronounced as some might expect. Solid first-quarter earnings across media sector are surely a reflection of the confidence traditional content companies are feeling right now, though how long that will last is anybody’s guess.

But the broadcasters are hanging tough, as you’ll read in this week’s package of cover stories exploring the new economics of TV series production. When you get a sense of how the industry is evolving to confront the challenges presented by increasing competition, it’s encouraging to see the networks that started all this upfront madness want to make sure they stay a vital part of this crowded field.

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