NBC News Upfront Brings the Comedy for 2 and a Half Hours | Adweek
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The 2013-14 Upfront

NBC News Upfront Mixes Biz With Comedy Over Lunch

Highlights include new digital initiatives, Joe Scarborough's Bill Cinton impression

NBC News held a midday upfront at the New York Public Library that featured more than a dozen of the network's on-camera talent riffing on each others' quirks to an audience of ad buyers. The presentation also featured some discussion of the sequester, the economic climate, and, of course, the network's new digital offerings (this last was kept unsurprisingly vague).

The news organization's pitch wasn't exactly hot off the presses—"Digitial is changing the landscape," said Mike Miller, executive vp of ad sales for NBC News Group—but the division had the advantage of presenting a product that much of the room probably uses. After an introductory video, Maria Bartiromo moderated a panel of anchors discussing politics and the economy, and several of the company's other faces entertained with banter that would have been at home on their shows.

Appropriately, entertainment included a performance by pickpocket Apollo Robbins, recently featured on Today. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski poked fun at each other's families and Scarborough's career in politics (Scarborough to a Bill Clinton aide: "I feel so bad—I really don't like your boss." Aide to Scarborough: "That's okay, Joe. He hates you, too.").

Peter Naylor, NBCU's executive vp of digital media sales, told the audience that he had good news on the digital front: "Later today, NBC will open a fully featured digital studio to be housed in studio 1A [where Today shoots]." It won't replace the shuttered NBC Digital Studio, which closed two years ago, but it will support the efforts of the news division.

Matt Lauer also took some time out to address the events of the day, albeit in a less comfortable fashion. "All of us here at Today love covering the news. We hate being the news," said the anchor, recently the subject of several unflattering articles. "So I am going to devote all of my time and energy over the next few month to keeping Savannah out of the headlines."

The rest of the lengthy upfront (over two and a half hours) continued as expected: Al Roker and Willie Geist discussed sharing an extremely chaste kiss on-air ("I viewed that as groundbreaking," said Geist), and Kathie Lee Gifford gave Hoda Kotb a wedgie.

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