TV Business Issues Also Aired at Upfronts


Amid the programming on display at Monday’s upfronts, there was also some discussion of the business of television at the presentations put on by Fox and NBC.

The word of the day was fluidity, a term both Fox and NBC used to describe their desire to sell ads to sponsors on both the TV and digital versions of their programming.

At Fox, ad sales chef Toby Byrne pointed out that in a multiscreen environment, “it’s not just television anymore.”  He noted that 20% of the viewership of Fox’s new hit New Girl is on air, and that Fox sells those eyeballs online through and Hulu, on game consoles and VOD. “Calling that ‘traditional TV’ is a misnomer,” he said.

Byrne also announced that Fox was looking for a few sponsors to get in on the ground floor of Animation Domination 3D, which will look to attract young men with animation in a variety of formats. Animation Domination 3D will be on TV Saturday late night and online the rest of the time.

The initiative appears aimed at Adult Swim and could also create in incubator for concepts that could eventually move into Fox’s Sunday animation block.

(The youthful looking Byrne took some ribbing from host Ryan Seacrest, who noted how Byrne was plucked from the obscurity of the ad sales staff to succeed the legendary Jon Nesvig, and how he still may be only 16 years old. Byrne thanked him for the intro, which was gentler than the one at Byrne’s first upfront as sales chief last year, delivered by Jane Lynch.)

Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice noted that digital players were trying to move into the TV space, but that Netflix and Hulu’s programming reaches a fraction of the audience that broadcast TV does.

“They can’t compete with our reach and our scale,” he said, and welcomed them to the fray, adding that it will “take more than ordering a show” to make an impact on the business.

Rice also introduced The Bridge, an initiative design to track the digital and social aspects of Fox shows and show advertisers how that impact helps build engagement for their brands. The team, which will work with the Fox integrated marketing and sales teams, will also start advising clients on ways to take advantage of the digital and social engagement created by Fox programming.

At NBC, network chairman Ted Harbert addressed a number of TV’s business issues.

“If we’re going to spend all this money on content, it has to be measured and monetized,” Harbert said. With programming-and ad campaigns airing on multiple screens, the industry needs cross-industry measurement. “We can’t wait for Nielsen to do it.”

Harbert also took a shot at Dish TV, which last week introduced a DVR that records broadcast network programming and allows subscribers to eliminate the commercials by pushing a single button.

“This is an insult to our joint investment in programming, and I’m against it,” he said.