The second week of May is when the broadcast and major cable television networks present their fall lineups to advertisers and the media at what’s known in the trade as “upfronts”. With viewers now being able to watch their favorite entertainment shows after they originally air thanks to the Internet and DVR technology sports has taken on new importance. Sporting events tend to be watched live by fans at home and that is a big premium for the advertising community.
ESPN president of sales, St. John’s University alum Ed Ehrardt, happily informed his audience of this indisputable fact at his network’s upfront. “The worldwide leader in sports” brought in name athletes as NBA superstar Dwyane Wade and Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis to pose for photos with advertisers at the Miskoff Theater.
Ehrhardt also reminded the audience of the countless broadcast rights of top events that ESPN has the rights to including the college football championship games and “Monday Night Football.” The MNF broadcast team of Jon Gruden and Bayside High School alum Mike Tirico discussed the 2015 schedule. They were aided by impressionist extra ordinaire Frank Caliendo who impersonated Gruden to perfection.
ESPN’s popular morning drive time tandem of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic announced that they would be moving their show to NYC in February.
CBS CEO Les Moonves made sure that the world knew that the Tiffany Network owns the broadcast rights to Super Bowl 50 (the first one that will not use Roman numerals). Nine former Super Bowl MVPs , including Joe Namath and Phil Simms, walked onto the stage of Carnegie Hall carrying gold-plated footballs.
To nobody’s surprise, NBC Entertainment CEO Bob Greenblatt touted the success of the nation’s most viewed primetime fall show, “Sunday Night Football. The Peacock Network will be televising the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and NBC Sports chief Mark Lazarus had our modern day Mark Spitz, swimmer Michael Phelps, discuss them on the stage of Radio City Music Hall.
Fox Television executives surprisingly did not play up either the NFL or Major League Baseball packages they own but instead took pains to promote next month’s big golf event, the US Open, and the Women’s World Cup that will take place later in the summer.
Turner Entertainment announced that its popular NBA studio team of Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, and Lefrak City native Kenny Smith had all just signed long-term contracts at its upfront at Madison Square Garden. The quartet did a takeoff of their halftime and postgame shows at the upfront that was supposed to critique Turner’s upcoming slate of shows. The problem was that none of the four could recall any of the clips of the shows that were shown which couldn’t have made Turner executives happy. Incidentally, Forest Hills native, comedian Billy Eichner, will have a show on Tru TV this fall.
In the spirit of the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire” and the old HBO series “Arli$$” the Esquire Network announced last Thursday at the NBC Universal Cable Networks upfront that it would be launching a series about real life sports agents titled simply “The Agent.” At the same time the young female-skewing Oxygen Network that is also owned by NBC Universal will be debuting a show about female professional football players with the apropos title, “Pretty Strong.” Longtime television/ radio sports personality Anita Marks, who just joined ESPN Radio here in New York (98.7 FM) played for a few years in the Legends Football League. The chairperson of NBC Universal Cable is Hollis native Bonnie Hammer.
The NBC Universal Cable Networks upfront took place the day after the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in the deciding seventh game which went into overtime until Derek Stepan’s goal won it. Linda Yaccarino, NBC’s chairman of ad sales, saluted the Blueshirts from the stage of the North Hall of the Javits Center.
While Yaccarino is a Rangers fan she was probably more excited about the fact that the NBC Sports Network has exclusive rights to the National Hockey League playoffs and the Rangers mean ratings.
Hispanic television networks were very visible during Upfront Week and soccer was a big selling point. Univision promoted the fact that it has rights to the Mexican pro soccer league, Liga MX, and will broadcast the Copa Americas Centenario in 2016, which is the Western Hemisphere’s answer to the World Cup. Not to be outdone, Telemundo touted that it has the rights to televise the home games of two popular Liga MX teams, Leon and Pachuca, and will be the Spanish language home to the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Finally, ESPN Deportes has the rights to Major League Soccer and the Hispanic arm of “the worldwide leader in sports” brought in New York City Football Club star David Villa to mingle with advertisers last week.
Univision is borrowing a page from ESPN’s mid-July ESPY sports awards extravaganza as it will be creating its version to be called Premios Univision Deportes that will be telecast on December 20.
The New York Jets took it on the chin from nearly everyone for accepting close to $400,000 from the Department of Defense for holding on-field ceremonies honoring those who have served our country. Congressman Peter King pointed out the team contributes more than a million dollars every year to nonprofits that benefit both veterans and currently serving military personnel. Given the multi-billion dollar annual military budget, the amount that the Jets and other NFL teams receive is not even a blip on the radar screen. This is a gigantic non-story.
It has been difficult to gauge the Mets because of the high number of players on the disabled list. Of course that seems to have become the norm given how things have gone on the medical front for our Flushing heroes in recent years. The Mets seemed to lose a lot of mojo dropping two out of three to the Yankees in the Bronx three weeks ago and then appeared to hit rock bottom losing five straight games last week including four games to the Cubs in Chicago. A sense of crisis was averted when the Amazins took 2 out of 3 from the woeful Brewers at CitiField over the weekend. Nonetheless it appears likely that the Mets will drop towards the bottom of the National League East standings if David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud need more time than what has been budgeted to recover from their injuries.
The Esquire Network renewed Spike Feresten’s “Car Matchmaker” show for another season. Feresten hosted a show on Fox, “Talkshow with Spike Feresten,”which competed with NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” for three seasons (2006-2009) and was often far funnier than its big-budgeted world famous competitor. It remains the most successful late night program in the history of the Fox Network.
At the Fox Upfront, Fox Television CEO Dana Walden announced that one of Fox’s most successful primtetime programs, “The X-Files,” will be returning to the air this January after a 14-year hiatus. I think that it’s time for Fox executives to bring back “Talkshow with Spike Feresten.”
National CineMedia (NCM) took advantage of television upfront week by having a presentation to advertisers about the benefits of advertising in movie theaters. NCM produces the familiar “First Look” which integrates upcoming film trailers and other entertainment news with commercials before the main feature begins. The company showed press and advertisers the prototype for a theater that will have screens on three sides to simulate a 3-D effect without needing those annoying special glasses.
Mexico is trying to promote itself as a shopping destination. Five years ago Mexico started a program called Moneyback that allows visitors to receive a rebate of close to 9% on purchases of most consumer goods but it has gotten little attention. The Mexico Tourism Board is stepping up public awareness.
Visitors to Canada have long known to save their receipts to get a good chunk of the sales taxes that they paid in order to get a refund from Revenue Canada, our northern neighbor’s answer to the IRS.
In order to be eligible for the sales tax rebate you have to either fly in and out of Mexico or be on an international cruise. Crossing by foot into a border town such as Tijuana or Nogales won’t cut it as you have to show a plane ticket ro cruise boarding pass. For more information, log onto moneyback.mx.