NEW YORK It's upfront season in New York: The cable networks are pitching their shows to advertisers, media buyers and journalists before the big broadcast networks unleash their A-list talent in May. At the TV Guide channel's upfront event at Gotham Hall, the oft-repeated question asked by the presenters was: “Are you guys drunk yet?” And the resounding response was always a hearty cheer from the horde of approximately 600 twenty- and thirtysomething media buyers who slugged back drinks as quickly as possible before the bar temporarily closed for the sales presentation.
Produced by Julie Bruzzone, vice president of marketing for the TV Guide television network, and Wizard Studios, the event reintroduced the shows that accompany the listings that make up the channel's programming, and attempted to increase the channel's recognition in the city. “In New York our biggest issue is we're not on Cablevision,“ Bruzzone said. “So a lot of people in the New York area haven't seen us because they're a Cablevision household. But we're working to change that.”
The set displayed a large, brushed-metal framed screen flanked by two curving walls covered with starry silver lights. TV Guide execs kept their remarks short and sweet, but as the lineup of hosts were introduced and special guests like Tyra Banks from America's Next Top Model and Omarosa Stallworth from The Apprentice (who elicited a round of boos) were trotted out, the crowd grew chatty and restless. By the time a few American Idol castoffs performed for the crowd at the end of the hour-long presentation, thirsty guests mobbed the reopened bars. (Despite their inattention, the show's message did sink in. “It was a really big success. Our account execs are already getting calls from advertisers,” Bruzzone told us a few days after the event.)
A few touches kept the party not all business-as-usual: A karaoke machine was set up in one of the adjacent rooms, where guests could have their own American Idol moment recorded to take home. The DJ was perched on a high tower of scaffolding situated at one end of the room. And Wizard booked Emeril, James Gandolfini and Ozzy Osbourne look-alikes to hang out behind the bars to chat with guests (although they looked like they were just in the way of the bartenders from Great Performances).