TV Upfronts

Inside Amazon's Star-Studded First Upfront Week Event

Celebs like Alicia Keys, Keke Palmer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Octavia Spencer and Hannah Waddingham joined execs onstage

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Today, Amazon hosted its first upfront week event. Now, it’s time to assess the Fallout.

Traditionally, the tech and retail media giant held events for advertisers in NewFronts the first week of May. However, with the advent of the company’s Prime Video ad tier, Amazon jumped into upfront week in February, looking to showcase its extended media and streaming offerings, including Prime Video, Prime Video Sports, Twitch, Amazon Music and Freevee, as it competes for traditional TV dollars.

Inside the venue

One of the storylines heading into upfront week was how publishers may pull back on budgets to protect the all-important bottom line. There was no indication of that at Amazon’s upfront week introduction.

The company welcomed attendees into an initial cocktail reception full of breakfast hor devours, a coffee and drinks bar including things like a “Middle Earth Mimosa” for The Rings of Power and a “Bloody Dalton” in honor of Road House.

Amazon’s concessions showcased an array of coffee and drinks.ADWEEK

Beyond the concessions bar, the company decked out a reception room with several activations that nodded to its shows and ad formats.

Activations included a full-sized car promoting Nascar coming to Prime Video in 2025, a Twitch station to showcase how ads would appear on the platform, a Fallout photo station where attendees could take pics next to giant cockroaches, a Road House bar, a space where money rained down to showcase its Mr. Beast partnership and more.

A Fallout station allowed attendees to get up close with giant cockroaches.ADWEEK

Meanwhile, the presentation space had stadium-like seating for hundreds of attendees, making room for the droves of people lining several blocks waiting to get in.

Once inside, each seat had an Amazon-themed beach tote full of towels for The Summer I Turned Pretty, Amazon Fire Sticks, a Thursday Night Football BrüMate tumbler and a Wondery-themed speaker, among other things.

Beast Games is among the new shows coming to Prime Video.ADWEEK

Unboxing the content

Amazon kicked off the show with Alicia Keys doing a surprise performance of “No One” and “New York” before the company jumped into a slew of announcements for new and renewed shows coming to Prime Video.

As opposed to the star-starved presentations last year amid Hollywood strikes, the event featured more than a dozen actors and celebrities joining in person, as the company highlighted its 200 million average monthly ad-supported reach through Prime Video—115 million of which are in the U.S., according to Mike Hopkins, svp of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

Prime Video has acquired the rights to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Tomb Raider, vp head of Amazon and MGM Studios Jennifer Salke announced from the stage. Jake Gyllenhaal also joined Salke to announce a sequel to Road House, followed by an appearance by Alan Ritchson, star of the hit series Reacher. Ritchson announced a new holiday film, Man With the Bag, that he’ll be starring in alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Aldis Hodge, star of the yet-to-be-released Amazon Original Series Cross, based on James Patterson’s novels, also joined Salke to announce that the show has already been renewed for a second season.

Reese Witherspoon and Will Ferrell then took the stage to introduce a new romcom, You Are Cordially Invited. Next, actors Octavia Spencer and Hannah Waddingham joined Salke to announce a yet unnamed “action drama comedy with the international scope of Jack Ryan and the hearts and humor of Thelma and Louise,” Spencer explained.

More TV content followed the movie stars.

Jenny Han, author of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Summer I Turned Pretty, stepped onstage alongside the cast of the latter young adult title, which star Lola Tung announced has recently wrapped filming of season three. That season will be “supersized” with 11 episodes, Han said, coming 2025.

Patton Oswalt, host of The 1% Club, also joined Salke to demonstrate a sample question for the new game show.

Delivering more sports

Jay Marine, vp and global head of sports for Prime Video, kicked off a sports-focused segment of the show featuring Charissa Thompson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tony Gonzales, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Roger Federer. Documentaries on Federer and Earnhardt Sr. will hit the streamer next year.

The second season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will hit the streamer on August 29, Prime Video announced with a teaser trailer. Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which stars Donald Glover and Maya Erskine and dropped in February, will also get a second season. The Boys, which will debut its fourth season on June 13, has been renewed for a fifth. A new unscripted series, Buy It Now, will be hosted by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s JB Smooth.

Amazon also announced Glitch, a new brand integration tool on Twitch.

“With our clean room and other leading ad tech, we can help all advertisers connect awareness and brand objectives directly to sales outcomes and category growth, full-funnel advertising at scale for everyone,” Alan Moss, vp of global ad sales, Amazon, said to close out the nearly 90-minute presentation.

As Moss was giving advertisers his final benediction, one last stunt interrupted the show. Salke returned to the stage with Bruiser, the Chihuahua from Legally Blonde, followed by a pink-clad Witherspoon to announce a new prequel series, Elle.

“Before she became the most famous Gemini vegetarian to graduate from Harvard Law School, she was just a regular ’90s high school girl,” Witherspoon said.

Moss finally concluded with a nod to the 2001 film’s soundtrack: “Thank you all for making this a perfect day.”

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