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Marianne Paskowski

Are Upfront Bashes Obscene?

January 30, 2009 10:42 AM

CBS said Thursday that it would go on with its annual upfront ad sales presentation at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan in May, as usual.

CBS Upfront

At first blush this sounds insensitive, if not downright obscene, given that every day we read about seemingly unending staff reductions and hiring freezes, as well as pay and bonus freezes, at just about every media company.

But these annual dog-and-pony shows put on by the broadcast and cable networks are becoming tamer by the year, as they should given the media business’s continuing downward decline.

So I say let the show go on. After all, you have to spend money to make money, and these presentations are very pragmatic. It’s an opportunity for a network to strut its stuff to a large, captive audience in one venue.

And CBS, at least, has a strong story to tell. But will the other networks, like the fourth-place NBC, hold upfront bashes as well?

And the biggest question is, should they?


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Comments (12)


If NBC didn't have an upfront last year, then I doubt they will do it this year. They will probably travel around to NY, LA, & CHI and visit the agencies one-on-one again.

Are upfronts really useful? They rush all these pilots and then they just end up changing. It always made me laugh when I would see media buyers/planners taking notes at our upfront. Seriously people, the networks will send you pilot tapes and synopsis of shows. Dorks. haha.

Anyways, if the networks do have an upfront, they should NOT waste money on an after-party. That just wouldn't be right with all the layoffs. One-on-one dinners/meetings with specific clients are acceptable, but big extravagant open-bar parties are not. As much as I used to like them:).

Marianne Paskowski:


I see your point, especially about NBC. The Peacock will use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to wine and dine its biggest clients.

Maybe the party is over, nobody looks at the clips for the nets' potential new series. They're busy networking, hitting the bar and munchies.


Jeff Mulligan:


"Obscene" is when banks and other corporate greedsters plead for taxpayer money, get it in a gesture of good faith, and then use it to fatten their own wallets rather than contribute to an economic turnabout. A network spending its own money on a marketing tool, no matter how ill-advised that tool might be given market conditions, is hardly doing something obscene.

Yes, networks lavishing entertainment on prospects rather than saving jobs is an unfortunate dilemma, but without a steady stream of customers, networks wouldn't be able to pay employees for long.


Arthur Greenwald:

Even in the flush 80's, network upfronts and the after-parties were modest affairs compared with similar client bashes thrown by other industries.

I've produced portions of such presentations for automotive and Pharma clients, where they thought nothing of paying for the client's travel, lodging and luxury treatment at pricey vacation destinations.

CBS has been scaling back its upfronts and affiliate meetings annually for the past 5 years. Believe me, they'd abandon them in a heartbeat if they didn't find them necessary to doing business.


Yo, Blondie --

Calm down, Marianne. At least the networks haven't yet asked for a government bailout. (They've had a perpetual handout, however, in their free use of the publicly owned spectrum.)

If they do, I can see Sen. McCaskill demanding the quid pro quo of the networks broadcasting "Bozo the Clown" reruns as a viewing alternative to C-Span's cameras revealing Congressional lassitude.

Cruisin not bruisin

Marianne Paskowski:


Maybe the better choice of words in the headline should have been obsolete, instead of obscene.

For year now, people have strong feelings about these gatherings, anti, as ratings have waned for years while CPM's rise.

NATPE, the annual convention for TV program distributors this week had a 14 percent drop in an event that has seen its attendance dropping for years.

There are new economics at work here, and I wonder if the nets' upfront galas make any difference in this brave new world.

Afterall all the heavy spade work is done visiting clients, going to major markets and just getting a deal done.

Marianne Paskowski:


I understand the need for upfronts, but the message is too complicated today to deliver at a party, how all of a company's online, text,out of home, and on air entities work together.

That message is lost on those who actually attend these parties, the young media buyers who have nothing else to do that night and are looking for free drinks and food. They have tin ears and push buttons.

Their bosses have eschewed these events and prefer one on one meetings.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Cruiser,
GE, parent company of NBC and a bunch of cable nets, actually did get a loan guarantee from the Fed window, for another division, its financial lending arm.So yes, we are bailing GE out, too.

Arthur Greenwald :


Have you not attended a network upfront?

The presentations run all day, followed by individual meetings. The party is afterwards.

By the way, the party is traditionally a fraction of the cost of the (formerly) lavish stage & multmedia presentations.

In short, quit obsessing over the h'ors d'ouevres!


Marianne Paskowski:

You are talking about ancient history. I have attended many an upfront since 1980 and have seen the events trim back, as they should with the advent of cable back then.

Now these events are symbolic if not frivolous. The real deals get hammered out in face to face, one on one meetings. You know that as well as I do, but let's not dwell on the past.


Hey M,
Given the position CBS is in, they shouldn't be doing anything either. They've canned some really good people over the past few years. While CBS TV is doing well in prime time, their overall picture is incredibly bleak. CBS radio and TV affiliates experiencing cuts on an almost daily basis. The most respected meteorologist in the Twin Cities, Paul Douglas, was even laid off! CBS continuing to try to prove their not the old person network I guess.
Take Care,

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jason,
Just got home from a pot luck dinner, and pot luck it was, not that good, and I'm hyper and hungry:)

You got me thinking about CBS's upfront. I get an email announcement every single day about CNET, CBS's on line, stumbling addition to its portfolio. Think CBS's upfront dog and pony show will be about cross media platforms, given how it's now hyping its supposedly uber online presence...m

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