Column: DaSilva’s day-one upfront diary (NBC, Fox)

NBC looks ready for greatness again. Fox staying nimble for younger audiences It’s that time of the year when the U.S. networks kick off their upfront presentations, allowing media owners to revamp their fall and mid-season lineups to differentiate themselves from programming, technology and platform perspectives. As the Canadian networks rely heavily on the U.S. […]

NBC looks ready for greatness again. Fox staying nimble for younger audiences

It’s that time of the year when the U.S. networks kick off their upfront presentations, allowing media owners to revamp their fall and mid-season lineups to differentiate themselves from programming, technology and platform perspectives.

As the Canadian networks rely heavily on the U.S. for program acquisitions, attending the U.S. upfronts gives us a sneak peek of what to expect on our own networks. On Monday, upfront attendees got to see what NBC and Fox have planned for their fall 2013 and 2014 mid-season lineups.

NBC

NBC is focused on four areas:
• Building out their comedy roster with a priority on family programming, crime and law enforcement procedurals
• Leveraging their full portfolio of multi-network, digital offerings to drive their integrated offer and massive reach
• Reassuring everyone that late night changes will not be disruptive (as they were when Jay Leno left late-night the first time); the biggest change is that Jimmy Fallon will take over as host of the Tonight Show
• Maximizing the powerhouse of Sunday Night Football as a platform to fuel the prime time schedule

NBC is also home to the Sochi Winter Olympics, which  kick off Feb. 6. NBC plans to use this high profile platform to promote their mid-season schedule.

NBC has also invested in some very high-value productions, which speak to how they want to be perceived as a major content provider. Some of their new fall shows include Welcome to the Family, The Michael J Fox Show, Sean Saves the World, Blacklist, Ironside and Dracula, as well as a live version of the Sound of Music featuring Carrie Underwood.

Mid-season shows will include About a Boy, Undateable, The Family Guide, Crisis, Believe and Chicago PD. Returning shows include The Voice, Revolution, Grimm, Parks and Recreation, Law and Order, Chicago Fire and Parenthood.

During its presentation, the network addressed how they will make it easy for the agency and advertiser community to buy them by having a fully integrated team. This is a necessary move not only for NBC but for all media owners to figure out a way to breakdown the vertical silos and offer up a fluid portfolio solution. It also spoke to pushing the industry on total measurement, a familiar topic from past upfront presentations. Hopefully this will be the year of change on the measurement front.

Overall, it’s a new era in media for NBC. They are on a trajectory to becoming a winning network by taking more chances, investing in more programming and maximizing their fully integrated offer. Good luck NBC.

Fox

Fox made it clear that they are all about embracing change, welcoming social and programming original content year-round.

This network presented two very unique advantages:
• Digital initiatives with digital studios such as ADHD, Wigs and Short-com Comedy Hour, using the main networks to take them to scale.
• The production of epic event series such as Blood Brothers, The Run of His Life, Billy the Kid, and Shogun; Fox is single handedly bringing back the mini-series.

Like NBC, Fox focused on comedies and dramas. These shows include Dads, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Enlisted, Sleepy Hollow and Almost Human including a rebooted science documentary Cosmos produced by Seth MacFarlene.

Midseason shows will include Us and Them, Surviving Jack, Rake and Gang Related. Returning programs include American Idol, The X factor, Family Guy and Bones. There’s also a very strong sports offer from this network. They are home to Superbowl 48, College Football, UFC and NFL Football, to name just a few.

Fox has a young audience that naturally embraces the social space, so the network wants to demonstrate how adaptive they are by connecting with their viewers 24/7 across all social platforms. During its presentation, it spoke to a unique relationship with Twitter where they exchange content for premium placement. The social frontier remains a strategy challenge for many agencies and advertisers. Locking in an exclusive content deal with Twitter will carve out a unique identity for Fox in the social space.

Overall, I was very impressed with the Fox upfront presentation. They are diversifying into the digital and event programming space with guns a-blazing. They recognize that in order to keep their young audience engaged, they must be nimble, mobile and adaptive.

Will this be the year of change for the major networks? Have they finally turned that corner? Let’s see if this is an recurring theme with the remaining upfronts this week. Let’s see what ABC has to say this afternoon.

Robert DaSilva is the managing director, trading, at Mindshare Canada

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