The Week That Was: Upfronts Week

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

The third week of May is traditionally when the television industry introduces its fall programming to advertisers in the hopes of locking up ad sales early with presentations known as “Upfronts.” Sportscaster Jim Nantz spoofed himself at this year’s ViacomCBS presentation when he told the audience, “The Upfront– a tradition like no other!” which was a wink at his famous description of the Masters Tournament.

This year, the splashy presentations were done virtually instead of on famed NYC stages as Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall. For decades, sports were almost an afterthought for network executives as the primetime lineups grabbed most of the attention. The ability of viewers to watch scripted programming on demand has made appointment viewing in front of a TV set seem antiquated and that has worried advertisers.

Sports, on the other hand, is impervious to deferred viewing because people want to watch when the competition takes place. FOX Broadcasting president and diehard Mets fan, Charlie Collier, whose network carries Major League Baseball, the NFL, and NCAA football, emphasized how half of Fox’s programming is live.

ESPN announced it would be broadcasting “The Captain,” a six-part documentary on Hall of Fame shortstop and current Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter in early 2022. It will be similar in concept to the award-winning Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance.” The Worldwide Leader in Sports will also be sharing broadcast rights with Warner Media for the NHL starting this fall.

In addition to debuting the NHL this fall, Warner Media’s TBS will be shifting its Sunday afternoon Major League Baseball package to Tuesday nights starting next summer. 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX becoming law and CNN Films will have a documentary titled “LFG,” on how several top American female soccer players in 2019 sued the US Soccer Federation because less successful men’s players were getting paid more to participate in the World Cup.

TBS will have a new game show, “The Cube,” hosted by former NBA star Dwyane Wade. It’s to be seen whether TBS will pair “The Cube,” with “Wipeout,” an obstacle course hosted by WWE star John Cena who will be doing double duty for Warner Media starring in a drama series, “The Peacemaker,” for its HBO Max streaming service,

As a way of enticing both advertisers and new consumers, Warner Media announced HBO Max will soon be offering a $10 per month tier for commercial supported streaming while it will remain $15 per month for those who prefer it ad-free.

The success of Apple TV Plus’s “Ted Lasso,” which stars Jason Sudeikis as the clueless coach of a British soccer team, has inspired FX to greenlight “Welcome to Wrexham,” a documentary series starring Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.They’re the real-life co-owners of Wrexham FC, a struggling Welsh soccer team.


A tip of the hat to the Barclays Center CEO John Abbamondi for charging Brooklyn Nets playoff tickets at a lesser price for those fans who have been vaccinated. “We’re not neutral about vaccines,” he said forthrightly.

Mets outfielder Kevin Pillar is one of the toughest athletes you will ever see. Last week he got hit is the face with a fastball from Atlanta Braves pitcher Jacob Webb which broke his nose and made him a bloody mess. The next day he was able to hold a Zoom press conference with the media. You could tell he was in pain and had trouble breathing but he was generous with his time despite that. Pillar said he considered himself fortunate it was his nose which received the blow. He underwent rhinoplasty surgery on Friday and should be back sometime in early June.

Former Mets backup catcher Anthony Recker has quickly become a rising star in local sports media. He’s now a regular panelist on SNY’s “Baseball Night in New York,” and this past weekend he did a splendid job providing the color commentary alongside Howie Rose on WFAN for the Mets-Miami Marlins series. I can’t say I’m surprised at his success because he was always accessible to sportswriters and he studiously avoided the usage of cliches when he played in Flushing.

Shaquille O’Neal will undoubtedly be listed on the NBA’s top 75 players list when the league releases its list in the fall of 2022 to mark the league’s 75th anniversary.

As great a player as Shaq was, he is just as good as good if not better off of the hardwood. Charles Barkley and he are the comic foils for straight men Ernie Johnson, Grant Hill, and Lefrak City native Kenny Smith, on TNT’s “Inside The NBA.” He’s also the star of the TNT reality series, “The Shaq Life.”

It’s hard to think of an athlete who has landed more endorsement deals than Shaquille O’Neal has. He currently can be seen on television in ads for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Icy Hot, and General Auto Insurance.

Shaq has also made a mark as a businessman. He has a line of eyeglasses with Zyloware, an optical firm which got its start in Long Island City, and last week he signed an equity deal with Phoenix-based Alkaline Water Company. Bottled water which is better at neutralizing stomach acids has been a growing category in the health beverage market. Expect to see him as a pitchman for them.


Peyton Manning has resisted being a television pro football analyst since he retired as a player despite lucrative offers from every network which has NFL broadcast rights. He is the best athlete to ever host “Saturday Night Live” thanks in large part to his superb comic delivery which comes across in his Nationwide Insurance commercials, Manning will be using his quick wit to host a revival of the general knowledge quiz show, “College Bowl,” which premieres in June on NBC. Baby boomers might remember “GE College Bowl” from the 1960s whose host was the scholarly Robert Earle.

One great sign life is getting back to normal is the number of destinations which are competing for tourism business this summer. The Atlantis Resort, located on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas, is offering a five-night stay for the price of four. In addition, guests who are over 21 can enjoy complimentary scoops of Tipsy Guava Lime ice cream. It’s called Tipsy because its ice cream is infused with a touch of coconut rum. Queens’ hometown airline, JetBlue, offers frequent service between JFK and Nassau, Bahamas.

For those who want to travel but stay a bit closer to home, Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley is a two-hour drive from Queens (with normal traffic) by taking I-78 across New Jersey until you cross the Delaware River. Bethlehem’s August concert series, MusikFest, is back with such name acts as Willie Nelson, Kelsey Ballerini, and Darius Rucker. The Philadelphia Phillies’ top minor league team, the Iron Pigs, play in nearby Allentown. If you time it right they could be playing the Syracuse Mets or Scranton Rail Riders (the Yankees AAA affiliate).

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