The Best and Worst of Upfront Week

Who killed, what flopped and why so many network executives were hopping mad

Complete coverage of the 2012 upfronts
Upfront 2012 Marketplace: Buyers See Plenty of Content, But No Hits
ABC: Lee Looks to Build on Drama Successes
CBS: Key Shifts for 'Two and a Half Men,' '2 Broke Girls'
Fox: Taking Another Swing at Four-Comedy Tuesday
NBC: Betting Big on Comedy, 'The Voice'
CW Shifts Six of Its Seven Returning Series
USA: Expanding Beyond Drama
Turner Presents New Video Strategy, With No Glitches
ESPN: Promoting 'Face' Value
Univision: Getting Into the TV Everywhere Game
Telemundo Media Hopes to Capture 'Duality' of Hispanic Audience
Fox Hispanic Media: Breaking the Hispanic Network Mold
Discovery en Español Gets in the Game

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  • CBS as usual ran a tight and targeted ship, pushing its position of strength in grand scale at Carnegie Hall. Plus, Leslie Moonves paid some "mad respect" to LL Cool J.
  • ESPN impressed again with a strong showing, including clips of actual sponsorship integrations-a best-practice demonstration that other networks should mimic.
  • Despite its ratings problems, The CW was as right as usual on its 18-34 message and has a slate of shows that look the part.
  • Jimmy Kimmel killed again.
  • The Turner opening clip, which lampooned its network and executives.
  • Fox and CBS had big parties in which they invited all upfront-goers. They are in first and second place, and gave execs and stars a chance to crow about it afterwards. ABC and NBC did not. They are fighting for last place, and left us to judge them on their upfronts alone. That was a huge missed PR opportunity for two networks that desperately need it.


  • NBC's upfront was universally panned for being too long, even knowing they had a lot of shows to peddle, and some uncomfortable executive moments onstage led to inadvertent laughs from the audience at the end.
  • ABC (loudly) piped in GMA weatherman Sam Champion with updates from outside as upfront attendees streamed in. Still not sure if they were meant to be funny or not. And that's not a good thing.
  • CBS promised cupcakes at its afterparty, and at least early on, they did not deliver.

The Early Contenders

They only saw clips, but here are some shows that had upfront-goers leaving interested (based on the most unscientific survey possible)

Nashville (ABC)
Revolution (NBC)
Elementary (CBS)
Ben and Kate (Fox)
Dallas (TNT)
Political Animals (USA)
Arrow (CW)

Hopping Mad

 Hopping Mad, Part Two

Charlie Ergen has done it again. The Dish Network CEO's announcement about a technology that would allow single-push ad-skipping for day-after viewing sent content owners and networks into a tizzy. NBCU's Ted Harbert bashed it onstage, CBS' Leslie Moonves did the same at a press gathering and other execs followed suit. As one network distribution chief so delicately put it to me: "Good f-----g luck ever getting any of my programming again." Let the latest games begin.

There always seem to be tales of rage during upfront week, and this year's winner may go to one of the people who rushed into Carnegie Hall and saved an entire row of seats at the CBS upfront, until a very determined usher came over and busted up her plans, even threatening to toss her from the venue if she tried to do that. When a guy walked past her to take one of the now-open seats, the woman's row rage hit top gear. "Really, Dude?" she snarled and snapped.
But that woman may have been upstaged by a man who tried to drive his van through the traffic outside the CW upfront as people were leaving. A cop stopped traffic to let everyone cross the street, and the driver decided to put his hand on his horn...and leave it there. After literally minutes of the guy trumpeting his displeasure, a very large upfront-goer walked up to the van and showered him with choice insults. The driver stopped honking. The large man walked away. The driver immediately started again. You just gotta love New York.

Do You Have the Moves Like Donna?

TNT's Steve Koonin absolutely killed when he made fun of last year's tech problems by walking onstage this year wheeling an ancient overhead projector. But it was already too late to steal the show. That came courtesy of new sales chief Donna Speciale, who in an opening video showed off some serious dance moves. It was originally supposed to be a joke in the reel, but Speciale can flat-out move. "They figured I couldn't dance -- like Elaine from Seinfeld," she said. How wrong they were.

Bringing the Funny

"For sale: controlling interest in OWN. $10 or best offer."
--Conan O'Brien, reading a fake Craigslist ad under a photo of Oprah Winfrey at TNT's upfront

"...after 23 years, or as I like to say, after 11 entertainment presidents."
--ABC's Paul Lee, on his very comfortable job

Battle of the Network Barbs

"Somebody should tell him that CBS is so far ahead of ABC in 18-49...he should freshen up that joke."
--CBS chief Leslie Moonves, in response to Jimmy Kimmel roasting the age of CBS viewers

"Spinning chairs and a monkey, this really is the golden age of television."
--Jimmy Kimmel, also taking a shot at NBC


The Best and Worstof Upfronts 2011

It didn't stop raining all week, a cable network exec by far was the biggest star on any stage and a flash mob even broke out at a network run by a guy named Pedowitz. Yes, Upfront Week 2011 left us all with plenty of memories.