NBC's Zucker looks at canceling annual ad bonanza

Fri Jan 18, 2008 5:20pm EST
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By Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - NBC Universal, hamstrung by the Hollywood writers' strike, is near a decision to cancel the glitzy presentation it holds every May to introduce new prime-time TV shows to advertisers, affiliates and the media.

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker, whose company reported on Friday a 10 percent rise in operating profit and 8 percent revenue growth, said he would still hold meetings with the advertisers, but was reviewing whether to call off the showcase "upfront" event at Radio City Music Hall.

"When people say the upfront, there are two things: One is the dog-and-pony show at Radio City and the second is the way we sell the inventory," Zucker told Reuters in an interview.

"The way that we sell the inventory in an upfront selling period is not going to change. Whether we still need to do the dog-and-pony show is completely under review here and you can look for an announcement on that from us very soon."

Asked if that meant NBC may scrap the upfront presentations and just meet one-on-one with advertisers, Zucker replied, "Yes, exactly."

The upfronts, first established for auto makers to lock up commercial time back in the 1950s, amounts to one of the year's most important weeks for both broadcasters and marketers.

NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox unveil their prime-time lineups at star-studded events, then host expansive parties before signing roughly $9 billion in deals for prime-time advertising.

This year, however, the writers' strike has clouded the landscape, halting production of scripted series and disrupting the period when pilots are being pitched and written. The result is that the networks may struggle to have lineups for 2008-09 in place for the event in May.   Continued...