Upfront Season Hearkens Back to the Beginnings

Gone are the days of parties, but business still thrives

With the upfront season in full swing, the events have
not lost their image of hefty deals and competitive buying, Adweek reported.

Present-day upfront events are mostly filled with lunches
and meetings, although the heart of the upfront still remains a marketplace.
When the upfront market began in 1948, only three networks - CBS, ABC and NBC -
ruled the space, with no specific schedules. In 1962, ABC altered its
programming lineup so that premieres occurred in one week in the fall. Five
years later, ABC offered ratings guarantees, which placed an insurance policy
on its deliveries.  

In the 60s to the 80s, upfront events were more
parties than meetings. The annual William Morris upfront party has gone from a
star-packed gathering to its last large event in 2008 at the Museum of Modern
Art. These days, business deals are laid out in lunches and meetings, not
during drinks at a party.

Cable introduced original programming such as Mad Men on AMCand The Shield on FX
that changed the layout of the upfronts, with more money going to them instead
of the Big Four. During the 1999-2000 season, cable only took half the dollars taken
by the Big Four. This year will be the first time cable matches broadcast in
the upfront season, with the broadcast network sellers expecting to increase
their upfront commitments by 7.5% per year to $9.23 billion. As the cable
networks are expected to match this, the total upfront take could total $18.5

Upfront events, although evolved from their festive
beginnings, are still the best way for buyers and sellers to commit to
long-term deals, even with naysayers predicting the demise of the upfronts, the article said.