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Experiencing the NBCU Non-Upfront

The “NBC Universal Experience,” as the sprawling company called its not-an-upfront-presentation Monday, had many earmarks of the traditional upfront presentation, including, it would seem, the prodigious expense.

On a windy, chilly and gray (but no longer rainy) day, NBCU’s spectacle sprawled through the company's “Experience” store and into the tented plaza and the lower level concourse in front of its headquarters at 30 Rock.

The invitees from the advertising and media buying world made their way through a high-volume fun house. Flat screens and people (“Deal or No Deal” babes in red sequins) reminded them of NBCU’s many brands and offered more than the traditional opportunity to have a photo taken with a star.

Be interviewed by “Today’s” Meredith Vieira and Ann Curry. Joust with one of the “Gladiators.” Become another USA Network character. Taste hot “Top Chef” appetizers – champagne in the next area was used to keep hungry dawdlers from queuing up there.

Don’t forget that NBC has “Sunday Night Football.” Watch “Access Hollywood’s” forever-tan Nancy O’Dell interview network stars. Drool nostalgically over a Shelby Mustang sitting next to a gas pump, a reminder of NBCU’s FuelCast Network.

Then it was the descent into the familiar cocktail party staged under the golden Atlas shouldering the world. This year, the crowd was treated to “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, live from his anchor desk upstairs, introducing Conan O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien cracked wise about his corporate family, including Jimmy Fallon, the “Saturday Night Live” prodigal son returning to host “Late Night” when Mr. O’Brien takes over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno in 2009. And there were a few words from NBCU President and CEO Jeff Zucker.

There were no tantalizing clips from new series, thanks to the writers’ strike that cut 100 days out of the traditional winter development season.

There was no night-by-night, hour-by-hour explanation of the fall lineup. NBCU did that in April to smaller assemblages at its “infront” presentations.

But apparently someone forgot to tell the news team at flagship WNBC, which told early morning viewers that the Fallon hire was “news coming on a big day of programming announcements made right here at 30 Rock,” a day when NBC shared with potential advertisers its plans for the coming season.

It sounded more like a script from last year.

(Editor: Jensen)

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