Inside NBCUniversal’s 2024 Upfront

By Taaza Facts

Published on:

For one magical week, everybody with hands anywhere near advertising purse strings is being pampered like royalty — unless, lord help them, they attempted to capture one frame of the Wicked trailer. Because anybody who did that during Monday morning’s NBCUniversal upfront presentation is likely halfway to a black site by now. 

“We do have security around the venue with night vision and laser pointers,” cautioned chief content officer Donna Langley from the Radio City Music Hall stage, the room suddenly lit emerald green. The crowd laughed, but she wasn’t kidding. Four people in my immediate vicinity were scolded with flashlights for phone use when the yet-to-be-released full trailer of the Broadway adaptation aired its sneak peek. 

There is no need to dissect the irony of a media giant giving one of the most compelling slots in its near-two-hour plea for advertising to a feature film. There’s no place for irony at a marathon of pitches to media buyers where the marquee participants will be streamers who once balked at the suggestion of commercial breaks. It’s 2024. Hollywood is literally singing for its supper, and ad tiers have found their way into every major streamer — two of them, Amazon and Netflix, participating in this dog and pony show for the very first time. 

And with that competition in mind, NBCU attempted to sell advertisers everything but their venue’s art deco carpet. Chairman Mark Lazarus hyped Oppenheimer, the record-breaking Peacock NFL game and BravoCon in the same breath, before ceding to a presentation that seemed to devote the most focus to three things: the aforementioned Wicked trailer (stars Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande were noticeably absent), trailers for Peacock originals and the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris. The good news for NBCU? All three seemed to play well in the room with the advertising set — though they’ll have to wait until 2025 for Wicked to get its ad-supported streaming run.  

The Olympics always play well at the NBCU event, and Monday’s proved no exception. Primetime Olympics host Mike Tirico promised “eight Super Bowl’s worth of audience impressions” from the Paris Games, a promise the room greeted with approval. But Tirico was somewhat overshadowed by ascendent Olympics personality Snoop Dogg, who joined him on stage. 

“For anyone who didn’t think it was real, the D.O. Double G is really going to Paris with Mike Tirico,” he said, quickly pivoting to a Drake dis track joke that went over most heads. “Not the A.I. but the real Snoop.”

Tiricio, in turn, started to break in one of the funnier moments of the morning. “What’s happened to my career?” he deadpanned. “What’s happening to me?” 

Ah, Mike, those are a question many will be asking themselves a lot this week. 

As for the trailers, the most enthusiasm came when Kevin Hart and Taraji P. Henson showed off the slick promo for 1970s-set miniseries Fight Night. There were general whoops of approval for the spot — and for this impressive cast that also includes Don Cheadle, Chloe Bailey and Samual L. Jackson. If there was a second place for best sizzle reel, the honor probably went to documentary series The Americas. Tom Hanks narrating a bunch of penguins getting pummeled by surf before narrowly escaping death by sea lion played in that room. Oh, did it play.

Maybe it was the dewey-eyed enthusiasm that comes with the first presentation of the week. Maybe it was the oxygen being pumped into the storied theater. Either way, the crowd seemed to generally dig what was being offered up, though this particular attendee could have done without country group Little Big Town seeing a medley of Thanksgiving, Christmas a New Year’s Eve-inspired music and incoming Voice panelist Michael Buble’s brief attempt to pivot from jazz to rap. 

What the crowd didn’t get a lot of, however, was NBC. Aside from the obligatory presence of network talent Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, both sidelined the previous year by a then-fresh WGA strike, the broadcast network didn’t get much non-Olympic-related attention. So when Wendi McLendon-Covey, star of upcoming network sitcom St. Denis Medical, announced that “there is no replacement for broadcast,” her words couldn’t help but feel a little hollow.

But there was little room for the company’s or the entertainment industry at large’s crisis points during such an uplifting occasion as the teaser for country singer Reba McEntire’s third sitcom. (McEntire also wasn’t on hand, stuck in Los Angeles filming a live episode of The Voice.) What allusions there were for bad news came from a candid Langley and, more ruthlessly, Seth Meyers. “It’s a tricky time for TV, but it could be worse,” he said, “We could be in radio,” then announcing he found 20 dollars on the street that morning and was now one of the finalists to buy Paramount Global. But his best zinger was reserved for another competitor, namely the star of the day’s only other presentation. 

“If you’re looking for the Fox News upfront, that’s happening outside a lower Manhattan court room,” he said to as many laughs as groans, referring the network’s fanbase assembled outside of former president Donald Trump’s hush money trial at that very moment. 

What might have been funnier, however, is the pervasive feeling that all the seismic change in the entertainment industry can’t stop things from staying the same. An orchestra played the Law & Order theme, Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie, journalists, espoused the power of The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Kelly Clarkson hopped out to close the show with an unavoidable performance of “Since You’ve Been Gone.” We’ve seen it all before. But sticking around seems to be reason enough for celebration these days.

Taaza Facts

I am a multifaceted content creator with expertise in blogging, Finance, and Cryptocurrency reviews. My creative journey involves weaving captivating stories in blogs, designing aesthetically pleasing and functional websites, and dissecting the nuances of cinema. We are dedicated to sharing our passion and insights with a global audience.

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