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CBS Locks in Date for Upfront Presentation

Jan 29, 2009  •  Post A Comment

CBS is pushing forward with its annual upfront presentation to advertisers.
The network has locked in Wednesday, May 20, for its dog-and-pony show, CBS sales chief Jo Ann Ross said. As per recent CBS tradition, the event will take place at Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall.
“We have a real great season-to-date story to tell and we expect that story to continue,” Ms. Ross told TelevisionWeek. “We are feeling very, very good about our performance thus far.”
CBS is far and away the most-watched network for the 2008-09 season, averaging 11.9 million viewers compared with second-place ABC’s 9.1 million. In adults 18-49, CBS and Fox are tied with a 3.2 rating.
Ms. Ross said it is unlikely CBS will make any radical changes to its upfront presentation.
“We will go with what’s worked,” she said. “We are the stable and consistent network. When we have basically a captive audience of our key clients and decision makers, we want to merchandise ourselves. I don’t think we are going to, quote-unquote, reinvent the wheel.”
That said, Ms. Ross held open the possibility of some surprises, noting that CBS likes to maintain as much suspense around its presentation as possible, including the details of its schedule.
“Even if I know more than I’m saying now, I wouldn’t say so,” she said.
Ms. Ross said CBS executives never gave any serious thought to dumping the network’s upfront presentation.
“We believe in the value of broadcast TV and of the upfront,” she said. “It was never a scratch-your-head thing.”
Last year, CBS decided against its usual post-upfront party at Tavern on the Green, opting instead for a series of private dinners with clients.
Will CBS go back to hosting a party this year?
“Right now we are focusing on Carnegie,” Ms. Ross said.
CBS insiders, however, suggested the network will hold a party of some sort this year, though details aren’t finalized. It’s unlikely any party would be held at Tavern on the Green.
As for the other broadcast nets, ABC plans to have its upfront in New York at Lincoln Center on Tuesday of upfront week; that’s its usual time and place.
ABC did not have its normal cocktail party following its presentation last year, and there’s no word yet on whether the bar will be open this year.
NBC has invited ad buyers and clients to its Universal Studios Orlando theme park as part of its Super Bowl entertaining. NBC will take the opportunity to hold what it’s calling a “super-front” to present some of its programming plans for the 2009-10 season.
Last year, NBC presented its schedule early to advertisers in what it called an in-front, held five weeks earlier than the traditional upfront week in May. The network said the early presentation helped build integrated marketing relationships between clients and its shows.
NBC plans to have another in-front this year. Its plans for upfront week have not been finalized.
As for Fox, the network is moving its upfront presentation from Thursday—the last affair of the week—to Monday. The CW will take over Thursdays, holding a morning event.
(Jon Lafayette contributed to this report.)

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