This year, it’s not your typical upfront week: Paramount is out, Netflix and YouTube are in—and multiple legacy media companies are changing venues.
However, through it all, NBCUniversal has stayed steadfast. On May 15, the company will once again kick off upfront week with a presentation at Radio City Music Hall.
“Obviously, there have been a lot of changes. But not only do we love Radio City, I think our clients have loved it,” Mark Marshall, president, advertising sales and client partnerships, told Adweek. “So while other things have changed along the way, we love being the leadoff man for the week, so we’re excited.”
Besides the upfront week presenter and venue changes, this year’s event will also likely be impacted by the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, which is in its second week. Barring a last-minute settlement, the strike will bring protesters to the streets outside NBCU’s presentation, much like it did for Peacock’s NewFronts event last week.
It remains to be seen how the strike—which is expected to be lengthy—will impact negotiations or upfront week presentations, since celebrities may be wary of crossing picket lines. Though Marshall didn’t go into specifics about potential effects, the ad sales president assured, “NBCU will have an extremely powerful upfront show and will still have great talent participating.”
NBCU CEO Jeff Shell’s stunning ouster last month is another issue looming over the company’s upfront plans. However, an NBCU spokesperson previously told Adweek that the former CEO likely wasn’t going to play a major role in this year’s event anyway, with Marshall; Linda Yaccarino, chairman of global advertising and partnerships; and Susan Rovner, chairman, entertainment content, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, already set to run the show.
Amid Shell’s absence from the upfront event and this year’s negotiations, the company is “forging ahead,” said Marshall. “We have a senior leadership team that’s been together for more than a decade, and so we will be moving forward, and we’re excited about the leadership, the talent and content that we have here in NBCU.”
The ad sales and partnerships president—who will be overseeing upfront negotiations solo following an ad sales team restructuring in February—said he’s “excited to be out there” to tell the company’s story at Radio City.