Upfront week has finally wrapped, and it’s clear the Writers Guild of America strike had a significant impact on almost every presentation.
Though the star power was slightly dimmer this year, with both Warner Bros. Discovery and Netflix only featuring executives during events as many celebrities refrained from crossing picket lines, the week still had several highlights, including a un-bear-ably foul-mouthed Ted making poignant barbs for NBCUniversal and 100 Samurai slashing through sword-fighting choreography at the North Javits Center for Disney. Plus, GOATs were going rogue for Fox.
See all the most memorable upfront week moments below. And if you missed any of our comprehensive upfront week coverage, you can find it here.
With NBCUniversal kicking off upfront week events at Radio City Music Hall, WGA protesters made a point of appearing outside the venue and chanting that there’d be “no pages without wages.” The strike was also felt inside Radio City, with NBCU heavily relying on its news team to present segments during the event. However, NBCU was still able to get things started with a pre-taped video featuring Seth MacFarlane’s potty-mouthed bear, Ted, singing about ads and joking: “Twitter may seem like the place to begin/but Twitter just let all the crazies back in.” With longtime ad sales president Linda Yaccarino exiting the company for Twitter days before the event, the joke took on a whole new meaning. (Though, Mark Marshall, interim chairman of advertising and partnerships, assured Adweek the Twitter quip had been in the presentation for months, and Yaccarino was well aware of it.) — Bill Bradley
Beau Ferrari, chairman of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, previously told Adweek that the company’s upfront week theme was “Come With Us,” but we’re here to announce it really felt more like “Come Dance With Us.” From Nicky Jam performing his hits at The Glasshouse in New York to a dance team hyping up the crowd while the company presented sizzle reels, there’s no dancing around it: the 2023 Telemundo Celebration was the definition of a celebration. – B.B.
After a pre-recorded 2022 presentation, Fox returned to a live format for this year’s upfront. While the WGA strike impacted talent attendance, the company still brought up plenty of its unscripted and sports stars. What marketers will most likely remember is Erin Andrews doing her best to corral Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Carli Lloyd and Rob Gronkowski, who were all too delighted to chuck signed balls from their respective sports to the audience. — Mollie Cahillane
It’s always a party with Donna Speciale and TelevisaUnivision. While the ad sales chief brought back elements of last year’s famous salsa dancing video, this year, Speciale headed to Mexico City and Azteca Stadium to learn the art of fútbol, and even call a goal herself. Cap it off with a Super Bowl announcement and a performance from Luis Fonsi, TelevisaUnivsion was one of the week’s most memorable events. — M.C.
Though some publishers chose to go without talent in upfront events, Disney didn’t shy away from it, bringing the likes of Kim Kardashian, Kevin Feige and Angel Reese to the stage. However, the biggest moment didn’t come from household names. Instead, Disney realized the one ingredient that’s been missing from upfront week this whole time: sword fighting. Toward the end Disney’s event, 100 Samurai came out to sword-fight their way through the North Javits Center in honor of FX’s Shogun. After seeing the costumes and choreography, there’s no going back. So this is Adweek’s official petition to make every presentation have sword fighting next year. — B.B.
Warner Bros. Discovery
Warner Bros. Discovery previously announced that only executives would appear on stage due to the ongoing strike, and it stayed true to its word. HBO and Max chairman and CEO Casey Bloys made his upfront debut, but, interestingly, the company’s memorable moment is something that didn’t happen—CEO David Zaslav, an upfront staple and a regular topic amid WGA protesters, did not appear on stage for the first time in recent history. — M.C.
Netflix chose to do its event virtually this year without talent, releasing some new footage for series such as a trailer for 3 Body Problem and breaking out its ad-tier info for the first time, claiming the ad-supported plan has around 5 million monthly active users. Of course, the virtual presentation led to a somewhat tepid reaction online. Overall, it was a presentation that could’ve drastically benefitted from a little sword fighting. But again, what presentation wouldn’t? — B.B.
YouTube, a non-traditional TV player, used its second year holding its Brandcast spectacular during upfront week to bring out all the glitzy stops. YouTube had pizza-shaped cookies from YouTuber Airrack (a pizza enthusiast), offered advertisers a special YouTube TV deal for their own personal accounts and serenaded attendees with YouTube star Jacob Collier. Doja Cat was also on hand to perform “Need to Know,” “Juicy” and “Say So.” In another touch of TV magic, YouTube also offered longer ad spots on its YouTube Select inventory airing on CTV. — Catherine Perloff