Major networks will play a supporting role during upfront week

For the major networks, upfront week has traditionally been a chance to put their best feet forward — to try to gin up enthusiasm among media buyers about...

Posted: May 12, 2019 8:58 AM

For the major networks, upfront week has traditionally been a chance to put their best feet forward — to try to gin up enthusiasm among media buyers about their upcoming shows before negotiating billions of dollars in advertising sales.

Next week's edition of the annual ritual, however, will find the broadcast networks cast in what amounts to a supporting role.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox will still showcase their 2019-2020 lineups during upfront week — NBC and Fox kick off the festivities Monday — along with the CW and CNN parent WarnerMedia.

But their presentations have already receded into larger ones made by their corporate owners. And this year, the networks seem like even less of a headliner: Companies are pivoting away from ad-supported TV and funneling resources and salesmanship into new streaming services that are slated to launch this year and next.

Indeed, Disney CEO Robert Iger said as much earlier this year when he called the launch of streaming service Disney+ — slated for November — the studio's "No. 1 priority."

The networks will also share the spotlight with their parent companies' far-flung assets. In ABC's case, that now include an assortment of Disney-owned networks, such as ESPN, Freeform and the newly-acquired FX and National Geographic.

Upfronts in an era of down ratings

The diminished emphasis on the broadcast networks comes at a moment when they appear to be in collective decline. A proliferation of programming choices has caused ratings to steadily erode, with commercial ratings down almost 25% from three years ago.

Networks have enjoyed gains in delayed viewing, and the picture is somewhat better using "live-plus-seven" ratings, which accounts for the viewing of programs over the course of a week.

Compared to last year — which was, notably, boosted by the Olympics — the combined ratings average for the big four networks is down 7% among total viewers, per Nielsen data, and down 13% among the key demographic of adults age 18-49. That reflects a steeper decline among younger audiences -- the group targeted by most advertisers -- being drawn away from conventional TV.

On the brighter side, because the networks own many of the programs that they air, they capitalize on international sales and digital viewing, which provide additional streams of revenue.

But TV is still king

Still, the upfronts have traditionally been about advertising, with executives pressing the notion that network TV — whatever challenges it might face — remains the most effective tool for sponsors eager to reach a mass audience.

The networks are clearly in a transition period that is fueled by the march toward individual streaming platforms, said Steve Kazanjian, president and CEO of Promax, an organization of entertainment marketing executives.

The challenge, Kazanjian told CNN Business, is determining whether the parent studios are selling the overall company or individual assets. As he put it: "Whether you are positioning yourself as a branded house, or a house of brands, neither one is better than the other, but you have to understand who you are."

The networks can point to encouraging signs from the current TV season, including strong ratings for the NFL and Fox's breakthrough success with the reality competition "The Masked Singer" — demonstrating, as executives are fond of saying, that the pipes still work. That's true not only in prime time, but also with the popularity of late night franchises like "Saturday Night Live" and "Late Show With Stephen Colbert."

Even newer players are feeling their way in terms of how advertising figures into their plans. YouTube, for example, recently backed off from a subscription-based strategy for its original programming in favor of a free, ad-supported model. In unveiling those plans, executives cited YouTube's broad audience reach and a desire to go against the grain when other media companies are busy erecting paywalls.

The upfronts remain a focal point for the industry as conglomerates seek to convince media buyers that broadcast TV — even in its diminished state — remains the most effective tool to reach consumers.

The big difference for the networks lies between being upfront week's golden child and, as it now appears, just another mouth to feed.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 698692

Reported Deaths: 13148
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion953091706
Lake50868931
Allen38607670
Hamilton34028404
St. Joseph33404537
Elkhart26868431
Vanderburgh21948393
Tippecanoe21483212
Johnson17346371
Porter17059297
Hendricks16638309
Clark12600190
Madison12239335
Vigo12109243
Monroe11253166
LaPorte10639204
Delaware10251183
Howard9572211
Kosciusko9009112
Hancock7866139
Bartholomew7807153
Warrick7660155
Floyd7509175
Wayne6849196
Grant6732167
Boone648199
Morgan6341137
Dubois6054117
Marshall5720108
Cass5658102
Dearborn565275
Henry5545100
Noble534983
Jackson489869
Shelby474495
Lawrence4304118
Gibson425788
Harrison425370
Montgomery414686
Clinton413953
DeKalb404183
Huntington373180
Whitley372639
Miami369965
Knox363889
Steuben359657
Putnam350760
Wabash344977
Jasper342246
Adams336852
Ripley332668
Jefferson306779
White306054
Daviess288199
Wells283680
Decatur278092
Fayette276762
Greene268785
Posey267533
Scott258753
Clay250944
LaGrange249670
Randolph233679
Washington228929
Spencer227231
Jennings224347
Fountain207245
Sullivan207241
Starke199452
Owen191056
Fulton189139
Jay184829
Carroll184520
Perry178536
Orange175852
Rush169424
Vermillion165543
Franklin164835
Tipton160743
Parke143516
Blackford132130
Pike129634
Pulaski112445
Newton102434
Brown98940
Crawford96814
Benton94913
Martin82115
Warren78715
Switzerland7688
Union69510
Ohio55411
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1039455

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1205361345
Cuyahoga1051802040
Hamilton774991164
Montgomery49566984
Summit44613904
Lucas39235757
Butler37466566
Stark31150890
Lorain23831467
Warren23725291
Mahoning20653581
Lake19760360
Clermont19325226
Delaware17811130
Licking15996205
Fairfield15520195
Trumbull15412458
Medina14693255
Greene14510233
Clark13455287
Wood12575182
Portage12183193
Allen11225229
Richland10924197
Miami10470211
Muskingum8653127
Columbiana8482225
Wayne8463209
Pickaway8394120
Tuscarawas8317239
Marion8302135
Erie7434153
Ross6650145
Hancock6608123
Geauga6462146
Ashtabula6374163
Scioto625699
Belmont5523158
Union551747
Lawrence5439102
Huron5237112
Darke5229121
Jefferson5223147
Sandusky5096118
Seneca5050118
Washington5031107
Athens494854
Auglaize470684
Mercer467984
Shelby453489
Knox4339108
Madison417957
Putnam417698
Ashland409186
Fulton402565
Defiance396396
Brown383955
Crawford3827100
Logan370076
Preble368295
Clinton357459
Ottawa352278
Highland345058
Williams318274
Champaign317355
Jackson305051
Guernsey303448
Perry286949
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261866
Hardin261163
Coshocton256057
Holmes251799
Van Wert237562
Gallia232146
Pike231031
Adams226251
Wyandot224553
Hocking207057
Carroll187846
Paulding167638
Meigs140938
Noble131837
Monroe128541
Morgan105822
Harrison104836
Vinton81013
Unassigned01
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 57°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 57°
Huntington
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 54°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 57°
Lima
Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 54°
Rain showers taper off throughout Sunday evening. Temperatures overnight will drop into the mid to low 40s. Monday, expect more clouds in the morning, with a littler clearer sky in the afternoon. Isolated rain showers possible on Monday. Highs around 60 on Monday.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events