Fresh faces on stage at the TV industry’s upfronts this week

New York (CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

There are a greater number of TV shows from a growing number of sources every year. So the broadcast networks have to work harder and harder to stand out. Think about your own habits: How many of your favorite shows originated on broadcast TV? Did you watch ’em live, on demand, on air or online? My TV diet is mostly cable and streaming, mostly on demand, though a couple broadcast shows like “This Is Us” and “Family Guy” still slip through. This week, as the broadcasters tout their new shows to advertisers in NYC, execs are hoping for another “This Is Us” in the mix…

This Is Still “Us”

    Brian Lowry emails: NBC’s three-year renewal of “This is Us” was one of the highlights of the network’s upfront announcement on Sunday, in advance of the formal presentation at Radio City on Monday. NBC called the deal “unprecedented” — which it isn’t, as anyone who remembers “Lost” can attest — but it IS emblematic of what’s become a play-it-safe approach, where stability is prized above all…
    >> NBC Entertainment co-chair George Cheeks, meanwhile, seemed to acknowledge the somewhat diminished role the broadcasters will occupy this week during a conference call, noting that there would be much discussion of “platform strategies” — that is, studio streaming services — while noting that the network is “bullish about the role we will play in it.”

    Here are all the new shows

    This is fun to read and watch: THR’s Rick Porter has a long list of the coming season’s new shows — “32 new comedies and dramas” so far — along with trailers for some of ’em.
    And Variety’s Rachel Yang has a list of the cancellations. Can’t have one without the other…

    The upfronts feel “smaller” now…

    More from Brian Lowry: The notion that the upfronts aren’t quite what they were — a point I made in a set-up piece here — was echoed by NYT critic James Poniewozik, who tweeted, “When I started as a TV critic, Upfronts Week used to be the High Holidays. The cancellations! The big announcements! Now I have to remind myself it’s happening. Which is not a knock on network shows — there’s just so much ELSE that it feels smaller, & fall is so far away.”

    …But the $$$ is still huge

    In a piece titled “TV Advertising Isn’t Dead (Yet),” Variety’s Brian Steinberg notes that the “upfront” commitments by advertisers — to spend a certain $$$ amount on ads in the coming year — have increased for each of “the past three years,” even as ratings have decreased. One obvious reason: Competitors such as Netflix and HBO Now don’t carry ads. So if you need to pitch a Prius…
    >> Steinberg: “When there are fewer products to sell — in this case, TV viewers — and demand remains the same or increases, the price goes up. That is likely to remain a big part of the market back-and-forth, says Michael Nathanson…”

    Reasons why the TV ad biz isn’t teetering

    Steinberg’s story includes several notable specifics:
    — “Drug makers have spent heavily on TV in the last several cycles…”
    — Upstart companies such as Wayfair and Peloton, that started buying digital and social ads, “now want to use TV to reach a wider crowd…”
    — Streaming services are buying lots of TV ads to woo subscribers…
    — At the same time, “digital-video rivals have problems of their own…”

    Fresh faces on stage

    NBCUniversal presents its new shows on Monday morning… the newly slimmed-down Fox, on Monday afternoon… Xandr on Tuesday morning…Disney (including the new Fox cable assets) on Tuesday afternoon…WarnerMedia (CNN’s parent) on Wednesday morning… CBS on Wednesday afternoon… and The CW on Thursday.
    “The shows won’t be the only new things on display,” the WSJ’s Joe Flint and Suzanne Vranica note. “The major networks—ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC—all have fresh faces calling the shots on their programming after a year of massive change in the entertainment industry.”
    The NYT’s John Koblin has a feature about one of those newbies, former AMC president Charlie Collier, in Monday’s paper. Collier’s message: “The Fox broadcast network is alive and well.” Read on…

    FOR THE RECORD

    — Constance Wu has elaborated on her upset reaction to her show “Fresh Off The Boat” being renewed by ABC. As expected, she was venting because the show’s return meant she had to “give up another project I was really passionate about…” (BuzzFeed News)
    — Over the weekend Wu’s vulgar reaction has turned into a meme, with other stars parodying her to celebrate their shows being renewed… (THR)
    — Alex Sherman’s latest: “Disney and The New York Times show how the media dinosaurs can stay on top…” (CNBC)
    — Sunday night’s biggest sports world story: The Toronto Raptors’ epic “buzzer-beater” victory over the Philadelphia 76ers… (Bleacher)

    Media week ahead calendar

    — Monday: Felicity Huffman is set to plead guilty… Per Chloe Melas, “she faces anywhere between four and 10 months behind bars — but ultimately her fate is up to the judge…”
    — Tuesday: Howard Stern’s new book hits bookshelves…
    — Wednesday: The leaders of New Zealand and France are holding a summit in Paris about online extremism. The organizers are pressuring Facebook and Google to do more to kick out terrorists…
    — Thursday evening: The series finale of “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS…
      — Friday: I’ll be at the SABEW conference in Phoenix with Rich Barbieri, say hello if you’re there…
      — Sunday evening: HBO’s “Game of Thrones” meets its fate…

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