Takeaways from Netflix, Amazon and More

It used to be all about the trailers and the broadcast fall schedules. Now those are largely a thing of the past as the media sector’s upfront presentations to Madison Avenue ad buyers continue to evolve.

Following a week of spin and hard sales, here are eight central takeaways after Netflix, Amazon, NBCUniversal, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, YouTube and Fox made their pitches.

1. The Streaming Giants Came to Play 

Reese Witherspoon attends as Amazon debuts Inaugural Upfront Presentation at Pier 36 on May 14, 2024 in New York City.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

This year was the first time that Netflix and Amazon had physical events in New York during upfronts week (YouTube is now in year three), and they clearly tried to make an impression, gunning for a piece of the $20 billion or so in upfront commitments that used to go exclusively to traditional entertainment companies. Amazon’s event Tuesday featured “the highest concentration of A-list actors currently west of Cannes paraded across the stage,” including Reese Witherspoon (in character as Elle Woods!), Will Ferrell, Jake Gyllenhaal and tennis superstar Roger Federer. After the presentation, buyers sipped on Nuka-Cola in a display inspired by Fallout, played video games in a Twitch activation, and took selfies next to a pile of cash inspired by MrBeast’s upcoming game show, while sunglass-wearing security handed out Feastables chocolate bars. … Netflix on Wednesday delivered a polished, clear message, plenty of earned bragging rights, and a “barrage of talent” of its own, including Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, Shonda Rhimes and 49ers star George Kittle. Guests were then invited to explore a Netflix “experience,” including a non-lethal version of Squid Game’s Red Light, Green Light, a WWE wrestling ring, and a mini-Regency ball connected to the world of Bridgerton. … And YouTube closed out upfront week Wednesday evening, as it has for the past few years, with a confidence of its own. “There’s only one YouTube,” CEO Neal Mohan said, after noting that the Google video platform has now been the most popular streaming service on TV sets for over a year (yes, even beating Netflix). As usual, it leaned on its class of creators to host (including the popular Zach King and Haley Kalil), and brought out surprise musical acts, all of which had YouTube channels of their own: Billie Eilish and Finneas, K-pop stars Stray Kids, and Benson Boone. It also had NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the icing on the cake given how omnipresent the league was in every other presentation. At the after-party, held in the plaza at Lincoln Center, YouTube constructed a play button next to the iconic fountain, as guests munched on Spam musubi and quesadillas, as creators mingled with the crowd.

More detail: Netflix’s presentation I YouTube presentation  

2. Amazon loves making headlines 

Mike Hopkins, Head of Prime Video and Amazon MGM Studios, speaks onstage as Amazon debuts Inaugural Upfront Presentation at Pier 36 on May 14, 2024 in New York City.

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Less than 24 hours after Fox’s 90-minute presentation featured a parade of talent including Derek Jeter, Tom Brady and Joel McHale, Amazon — in its upfronts debut — flexed its spending muscle. A seemingly endless stream of A-listers were trotted out at the dog and pony show, which also included Hannah Waddingham, Octavia Spencer and Aldis Hodge in addition to the aforementioned Federer, Gyllenhaal, Ferrell and Witherspoon. Jen Salke’s retail giant/streamer made an equally loud splash with a dizzying amount of news, too: A Legally Blonde prequel, a Tomb Raider series, a Road House sequel, Nicolas Cage in a Sony-produced Marvel Spider-Man Noir show, a pop culture version of Jeopardy plus renewals for The Boys and breakout Mr. and Mrs. Smith, among others. That said, our favorite part of this presentation was when HBO released the new season trailer for House of the Dragon not long after Amazon dropped one for Lord of the Rings as the two fantasy dramas continue to play a game of cat and mouse.

In detail: Amazon presentation

3. NBCUniversal is stuck in 2005 (with a streamer)

Cynthia Erivo (left) and Ariana Grande in ‘Wicked.’

Courtesy of Universal

The conglomerate time warped back to the early aughts with an upfront presentation that featured Heroes grad Zachary Quinto returning to NBC’s primetime (in drama Brilliant Minds), Kelly Clarkson performing “Since U Been Gone” and a double dose of Reba McEntire (on The Voice and her own sitcom, Happy’s Place) with Snoop Dogg thrown in for good measure (he’s working the Olympics, yes, really). While what’s old is new again for NBC, one thing that was starkly missing from the presentation — which gave a feature film (Wicked) the top billing — was a focus on its linear networks. Remember when cable mattered and USA Network was the most-watched network rather than an afterthought? At least Seth Meyers didn’t miss a beat.

In detail: NBC schedule I NBCUniversal presentation

4. Fox prioritizes ownership

‘Family Guy’

Everett

It’s no surprise that in an era of walled gardens, when media companies are selling fewer programs to outside companies, that Fox is focusing on building up its owned content. What was a surprise, however, is that Animation Domination stalwart Family Guy — owned by Disney’s 20th Television — was left on the bench when the network revealed its fall schedule. Fox instead will use Disney-produced The Simpsons and Bob’s Burgers to launch Universal Basic Guys and season two of Krapopolis, both of which the network either fully owns or is a co-producer on. (Don’t worry, Family Guy is still “crucial” to the network though all three of Disney’s beloved animated comedies are up for renewal this season and chatter persists that the pricey but low-rated shows could move to one of the Mouse House’s platforms as originals.)

In detail: Fox schedule I Fox presentation

5. Disney has it all (but doesn’t really know what to do with it)

Bob Iger, and a younger version of Iger, at the Disney upfront.

Jennifer Pottheiser/Disney

Disney CEO Bob Iger made headlines for returning to the upfront stage for his first time in decades and put that infamous proxy battle in the company’s rear-view mirror. (His victory lap was short-lived: 20 hours later he was at a MoffettNathanson event talking to investors about how over indexed Disney is on streaming and the need to pull back on the original content he was so happy to hype a day earlier.) Rather than focusing ABC and FX (the network that spent years developing recent hit Shogun), Disney’s overstuffed upfront presentation was all over the place. With two hours focused on “connections,” it was a challenge to go from Ryan Seacrest and Monday Night Football to ABC News and Stephen A. Smith. Yes, Marvel and Star Wars had their respective moments and Jimmy Kimmel spared no expense but other than a shot at his top lieutenants in the audience, not a single one of the company’s key creatives (FX’s John Landgraf, Nat Geo’s Courteney Monroe, Onyx’s Tara Duncan) got any stage time. But hey, the room did get an exclusive look at the new season of FX’s The Bear.

In detail: ABC schedule I Disney presentation

6. Warner Bros. Discovery goes it old school

L-R) Sarah Jessica Parker and Casey Bloys, Chairman and CEO HBO and Max Content speak onstage during Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront 2024 on May 15, 2024 in New York City.

Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Warner Bros. Discovery delivered a presentation that felt like a blast from the past. Casey Bloys previewed originals coming to Max and HBO (though there was no delineation) in the next 18 months, but the bulk of the presentation was focused on ad buyers and — gasp! — its many linear networks. WBD “remains believers in the power of linear,” U.S. Networks chair and CEO Kathleen Finch said as she and the ad sales folks dominated the 90-minute presentation.

In detail: Warner Bros. Discovery presentation

7. Focus on … film?

‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

NBCUniversal set the tone for the week when its Monday morning presentation kicked off with the trailer for feature film Wicked that was screened exclusively for attendees before it was released wide the following day. Amazon hyped Road House and announced a sequel. Netflix confirmed Happy Gilmore 2 and its buzzy new Kathryn Bigelow film. Even WBD, in its linear-focused event, kicked it off with a sizzle that prioritized features Furiosa, Dune: Part Two and Wonka. In the streaming world, it’s all one ecosystem and film components have now become part of the upfronts norm.

8. Where’s the new stuff?

‘The Bear’ season 3.

Courtesy of FX

Whether it’s the post-strikes development pipeline not fully running yet, media companies pinching pennies or a combination of the two, this year’s upfronts felt more than a little sparse when it comes to new programming. The big four broadcast networks and The CW promised 20 new scripted series for the coming season, which is up from just 12 last year — when the upfronts took place two weeks into the writers strike. But for the four years before that, those networks announced, on average, 25 new shows each year. Aside from a trailer for The Bear, FX — one of the few cable brands still making a decent-sized slate of originals — was a non-presence at Disney’s upfront. Even HBO and Netflix, usually standard-setters in the business, talked very little about new programming. A lot of old favorites will be back in the next year, but no one seems to be betting that heavily on making new faves.

Oh, and if you’re looking for trailers for the few new broadcast shows, you can check them out, below. (NBC is not yet releasing clips for St. Denis Medical and Brilliant Minds.)

Doc (Fox)

Doctor Odyssey (ABC)

Happy’s Place (NBC)

High Potential (ABC)

Rescue: HI-Surf (Fox)

Universal Basic Guys (Fox)


Posted

in

by

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *