The network upfronts are back — sort of. NBCUniversal kicked off the return of in-person upfronts presentations to advertisers, the first since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And just as the conglom had started to do even before the pandemic, the presentation was more about the company as a whole, and less about individual networks (except for a lengthy performance-based pitch for “Bravocon”).
The event didn’t even mention NBC’s fall schedule or timeslots, instead focusing on NBCU offerings, divided by genre. Still, a lot of the old upfronts-style trappings remained, from suits touting their wares to stars coming out and making cracks about their corporate owners.
“TV is the only place where you can lie through your teeth about how great everything is and call it upfront,” Seth Meyers quipped. “Let me be upfront with you. Half the shows won’t make it through the year… I don’t need to tell you, the last few years have been transformative — not just for the TV business but across all industries. We need to be inventive, agile, forward facing… and yet this is still how we’re doing upfront!”
The NBCUniversal upfront opened with Kelly Clarkson performing “Queen of the Night,” which comes on the eve of her bid to become queen of the daytime. Clarkson, of course, has become a signature personality in the NBCU stable, as host of “The Kelly Clarkson Show” — about to be upgraded to prime timeslots on NBC-owned stations this fall — in addition to her stint as judge on “The Voice” and host of “American Song Contest.”
“The Tonight Show” star Jimmy Fallon then welcomed the audience of media buyers while also delivering a few wisecracks at his corporate boss.
“There are roughly 6,000 people in this room right now, which means statistically speaking, six of you have signed up for Peacock,” Fallon quipped. “I’m kidding, Peacock is incredibly successful. We have over 60 million users, ‘The Office,’ ‘Miami Vice’ and our newest hit repeat, ‘Yellowstone.’ How about the reboot of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.’ Did we nail the timing of that or not?! Nailed it!”
“I’ll only be here for a minute or two, or as it is known in our industry, CNN+. Yes, CNN pulled off the impossible. They created a streaming service that made Quibi look good. But I’m not here to make fun of CNN+, because today’s presentation is only scheduled for a couple of hours now.”
Later, “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson appeared to promote his upcoming Peacock series “Bupkis,” based on his own life. “I am here so that the media will start paying attention to me,” he quipped.
“I’ve done a lot of projects that reference my life because that’s kind of all I can do,” he added. “One of the things that sucks about that though is my family members, they often get to play themselves because of, you know, the low budget situation. So, my mom is starting to think of herself as a real actress. And that’s why it makes me extremely happy to get to introduce the woman who will be playing my mom — Edie Falco.”
Said Falco: “Finally, I get to play an overwhelmed mother of two living in a world of corruption. Except this time, it’s Staten Island. So when is it that I get the free Peacock password? That’s where it’s streaming right?”
Andy Cohen then hosted a bit of a dance showcase/performance art piece touting “Bravocon” and the network’s signature shows including “Top Chef,” “Vanderpump Rules,” “Below Deck,” “Southern Charm,” “Million Dollar Listing,” “Project Runway” and “Real Housewives.” Stars from each franchise also appeared.
Cris Collingsworth, Mike Tirico and Maria Taylor came next, promoting NBC Sports and “Sunday Night Football.” To tout the WWE, The Miz and Bianca Belair also appeared, followed by Telemundo’s Andrés Canto to discuss the World Cup, airing on Telemundo and streaming on Peacock.
After NBCU Chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships Linda Yaccarino gave her pitch to advertisers, Miley Cyrus ended the presentation with a performance of “Wrecking Ball” and then her version of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.”
Earlier in the morning, NBC revealed its fall 2022-2023 lineup, which includes “La Brea” occupying the current Tuesdays at 9 p.m., home of “This Is Us,” as well as the “Quantum Leap” reboot series taking the coveted post-“The Voice” launchpad. Also new this fall is George Lopez’s freshman sitcom “Lopez vs. Lopez,” which will air on Fridays starting in November.