A Media Buyer Gives Her Take on Upfront Week

One media buyer's take on the Upfront Week parties and presentations.

May 31, 2007, 7:30 PM EDT

Our Upfront Week mole posing with Justin Chambers of Grey's Anatomy at the ABC after-party.

We gathered lots of media buyers’ impressions of Upfront Week, and as a whole, they tell a hectic, fun, sometimes contradictory story of the television networks’ annual sales pitches. For more consistent (yet just as subjective) view, we asked a supervisor at a major media buying firm to share her thoughts, day by day. Here's her take.

3 p.m., NBC presentation, Radio City Music Hall

It was fair. No one was really buzzing about the shows except Journeyman. They didn’t touch on their extensions like late-night and morning programming too much, and I think everyone was kind of grateful for that. They cut to the chase with the presentation.

5 p.m., NBC after-party, the Rink at Rockefeller Center
All the talent was at the party. [The casts] of Friday Night Lights, The Office, Heroes, and new shows like Journeyman and Life. The party was like it’s always been: It’s really nice because it’s at Rockefeller Center, and it’s never too crowded. When I walked in, four people from The Office were just standing there.

There were a lot of passed hors d’oeuvres. The spring rolls were good, prosciutto wrapped in greens, and little pizzas were really good.

The maps of the photo stations that they gave out were a very good idea. They gave the times people were appearing, which was nice. At CBS you never know who you’re going to get your picture with because they rotate the talent. NBC was the most organized party. It always runs pretty smoothly.

Upfront Energy Level [UEL]: Everyone’s fresh, but you have a whole week to go. NBC is a little tamer, but they have the advantage of everyone not being exhausted.

9 a.m., ESPN presentation, Nokia Theatre
I did not attend ESPN because I had a client meeting.

4 p.m., ABC presentation, Avery Fisher Hall
A lot of people were talking about the new talent before ABC’s upfront. ABC always does something cute. The “Kimmel-cam,” with Jimmy Kimmel making fun of people on a big screen as they were waiting for the show to begin, was funny. Everybody really likes Jimmy Kimmel. The bingo game promoting National Bingo Night was funny and the whole marching band and confetti coming down from the ceiling was pretty cute. The Fray performed [their song featured on Grey’s Anatomy]; I thought they were pretty great.

6 p.m., ABC after-party, Tent at Lincoln Center
It was really nice—like NBC, the party was close to the venue. ABC always has a lot of food. They had really good fish and meat, and really yummy spinach salad with tomatoes, couscous, or rice salad. The bar was crowded, but they had one on the inside and one outside. They had big vats of shrimp along the bar. Those were very popular.

Every star was there. We were some of the first ones to walk in, and Drs. McSteamy and Karev were just walking around. They were sitting outside smoking cigarettes. All the cast of Grey’s Anatomy was at a big table. The cast of Desperate Housewives was just hanging out. The photo stations literally go all around the perimeter of the party. The lines were ridiculous because there were a lot of shows people wanted to get their picture taken with. People stayed around for a while. The party went pretty late.

UEL: Still pretty high. It was gorgeous weather, really fun, and I got to hang out with a lot of people.

4 p.m., CBS presentation, Carnegie Hall

It was fair. It was close to an hour, even though it seemed like it was going to be long at first. At the beginning these guys came out and did a song-and-dance, kind of beat-boxing, saying, you know, “CBS is great. Thanks for your money.” It was kinda weird.

6 p.m., CBS after-party, Tavern on the Green
Unfortunately, it was gorgeous outside when we walked into Carnegie Hall and pouring when we walked out. It was such a shame, because Tavern on the Green is so pretty and it’s always so nice. We made the best of it. It was packed. It was really hot in there.

The food was ridiculous. They had everything you could possibly imagine: a burrito station, a carving station, mashed potatoes, ribs. It was fun. We actually stuck it out and went to the after-party at Providence, where they had a really good DJ everyone was talking about. When we left at 1:30 a.m., it was still packed.

UEL: Wednesday is tough because you know you still have to do Thursday with CW and Fox. But people are ready to go out to parties and after-parties.

10 a.m., CW breakfast, Theater at Madison Square Garden
At this point, everyone was a little tired, so on Thursday, everyone was excited: “OK, it’s the last day.”

They had servers holding Jamba Juice, fruit cups, mini parfaits ... of course there were coffee stations. I assumed the artists painting on a raised platform during the breakfast had something to do with the presentation, but I was confused. I thought it might be a runway for a fashion show.

11 a.m., CW presentation
They had the best shows, I thought. The Pussycat Dolls were a little overwhelming in the morning. CW president Dawn Ostroff was a pretty good speaker. Last year they had a luncheon in Bryant Park, but they cut it this year, which is totally fine because a lot of people didn’t go.

4 p.m., Fox presentation, New York City Center
Thank God they changed it from last year. They had held it at the Armory; you couldn’t get a seat, it was really hot, there was no air. It was a mess, and so long. Everyone was really happy they went back to the Manhattan Center. Fox was the only one with assigned seating, which made it kind of nice.

They had the funny Jack Bauer [Keifer Sutherland's character from 24] intro—that was cute, everybody liked that. They did keep it to an hour, which was very impressive because Fox is always the longest. I don’t think they did any sort of routine or anything. They were keeping it to an hour and I think everyone appreciated that more than having talent or entertainment there.

5:30 p.m., Fox after-party, Wollman Rink in Central Park
Everyone was questioning what was going to happen at Wollman Rink. All in all, the party was a thousand times better than last year’s. It was Miami-style, very Art Deco. Very big inside and outside.

The food was kind of lacking. They didn’t have anything passed. People were kind of disappointed by that. The food stations were good: They has sushi in the back, burgers and fries—everyone likes that. The desserts were by far the best: big buckets of M&M’s and Reese’s Pieces, a huge make-your-own-sundae bar, a very cool little display of chocolate truffles on sticks sticking out of grass. Everyone was impressed. But they ran out of beers pretty quickly.

They had the band they have every year come on and play oldies, which was fun. It stopped around 11:30, 12 a.m. Everyone wants that one to go longer.

UEL: I was exhausted. I would have loved to have stayed in bed that morning. I was pretty beat ... but once you’re out and socializing, you perk up.

By Friday everyone is dead. My energy level Friday morning was nonexistent.

The final assessment: None of it matters. None of the parties or presentations have anything to do with what we buy. We go through the pilots and watch them, and then we try to figure out what the next big hit is, which is impossible.

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