NBCU Throws a Few Elbows, Widens Tent in First Unified Pitch

NBC will use 'Superstore' to get more laughs; Arnold rules 'Celebrity Apprentice'
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STRATEGY: Show the broad reach of Comcast’s NBCU by bundling NBC with Telemundo and cable outlets for advertisers.

NBCU’s presentation at Radio City Music Hall May 16 represented the media giant’s first upfront presentation as a group, with new shows divided thematically—“Rule-Breakers” for spiky dramas and “Fierce” for strong female- driven vehicles, among other headers—instead of by network. So committed was the company to reinventing the usual approach that NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt didn’t appear until the one-hour mark.

The relative stability of the NBC schedule, thanks in large part to Sunday Night Football and The Voice, meant that NBC did not have to offer nearly as many new show clips as in years past. Notably absent from the event was the day-by-day NBC schedule, a staple of upfront presentations for decades. Sales chief Linda Yaccarino referred attendees to a business-card-sized schedule on every seat, but even that card didn’t offer time slots or days, just a list of new series.

The new format meant more A-list stars taking the stage, and fewer network executives. Top talent included The Voice judges Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys, Arnold Schwarzenegger, host of The New Celebrity Apprentice, as the post-Donald Trump competition show is now called, and Shades of Blue star Jennifer Lopez.

Steve Burke, NBCU CEO, noted that the five-year anniversary of regulatory approval of Comcast’s acquisition of NBCU arrived in January. During that time, he said the company has invested more than $40 billion in content, more than the value of the initial deal itself.

Burke also offered a stat about what he called “big nights,” which NBCU defines as primetime slots that delivered more than a 10.0 household rating and a 5.0 in the 18-to-49-year-old demo. Of the 61 such nights thus far in 2016, NBCU has had 43 of them, he said. “Think about what that means when you’re an advertiser trying to change people’s perceptions of a brand or a new movie or an automobile,” Burke noted.

Yaccarino took a swipe at Nielsen while talking up NBCU’s transmedia measurement initiatives. She said TV audiences watch seven times more TV than they do using Facebook, and 15 times more than watching YouTube— something that current measurement tools don’t always reflect. “I don’t run a ratings company or a research company,” she said. “But I’m happy to do their jobs for them.”

Late night funnyman Seth Meyers took the stage near the end for a quick and biting set. After NBC had held its upfront shindig at the dour Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan just a couple years back, he said the network’s return to Radio City was a sign of a healthy network.

“Usually people don’t rebound from the Javits trajectory,” he said. “Usually it’s Radio City...the Javits...the men’s room at Penn Station.”

Just under two hours after it began, the first-ever joint NBCU presentation ended, the slogan “Reach Redefined” taking over the big screen and confetti cannons firing.

Media buyers questioned after the event said the new NBCU approach went over well—that the two hours went fairly quickly, and the thematic groupings were a smart idea. One did mention that it was more difficult to remember which shows went with which networks. Dade Hayes contributed to this report.

STRATEGY: Show the broad reach of Comcast’s NBCU by bundling NBC with Telemundo and cable outlets for advertisers.

NBCU’s presentation at Radio City Music Hall May 16 represented the media giant’s first upfront presentation as a group, with new shows divided thematically—“Rule-Breakers” for spiky dramas and “Fierce” for strong female- driven vehicles, among other headers—instead of by network. So committed was the company to reinventing the usual approach that NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt didn’t appear until the one-hour mark.

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