Turner Broadcasting's upfront was derailed Wednesday by a
power surge that knocked out a projector and left clients and media buyers waiting
in a darkened ballroom.
After a delay, Steve
Koonin, Turner Entertainment Networks president, stepped into the breach, channeling his inner Borscht-belt comic to
diffuse the tension.
Buyers remained in their seats, and eventually Turner was
able to resume its presentation.
Buyers said the upfront malfunction wasn't something that
would be held against Turner. In fact, they praised the way Turner dealt with the
"He handled it with a lot of class," Ava Jordhamo, EVP, director of National Broadcast at Zenith, said of Koonin's efforts.
"He was phenomenal," added Donna Speciale, president, investment & activation and agency operations at Mediavest. "It was a good recovery. It was true to who they are. It brought the
drama and the comedy and the reality together."
Speciale added that once the clips finally appeared, the shows
looked very good.
The glitch first popped while Conan O'Brien was talking,
then stopped the show when Michael Wright, executive VP and head of programming,
attempted to show clips from TNT's new shows.
After an awkward silence, Koonin jumped on stage,
introducing himself by saying, "My name is Steve Koonin, formerly with Turner
He said he was about to do something no TV executive has
ever done at an upfront "and that's talk without a TelePrompter."
Koonin said he had no idea what had gone wrong. "I was
sitting in my seat watching the show, being called Peter Griffin [by Conan
O'Brien], and the shit stopped working," he said. "I think you'll be able to make
Univision tomorrow. I would ration your pastries, and we're out of beverages, and
the toilets are clogged."
He tried to lead the audience in a round of "Row Row Row
Your Boat," pleading for sympathy from the audience.
But he added that the upfront presentation difficulties
wouldn't bring down ad prices. "Our expenses will go down, if you know what I
mean," he quipped.
Ray Romano also came on stage to fill time during the repairs.
Turner was eventually able to resume its presentation, with
executives and talent making jokes and crossing fingers that clips from shows
Turner issued a statement while the presentation was in progress attributing the problem to a power surge.
When it appeared the presentation, including a teary
farewell by Kyra Sedgwick, whose hit The Closer ends its run, was complete, Wright
thanked the audience for its patience and support. But when the audience began
to leave, Koonin took to the stage again.
"This is the part I rehearsed. Sit your asses down," he
said. "Wow, what a day. Before I start, I will tell you I am very proud of
He said Turner's goal had been to convince advertisers
and media buyers that it could create shows good enough to provide an
alternative to broadcast television.
"The playing field isn't level; it's tilting to cable's
advantage," he said.