BBC America’s British Bacchanal

Last night BBC America hosted its annual upfront presentation in New York. Upfronts, as most media buyers are acutely aware, are usually a rather staid affair. Network executives typically take the stage and plug their upcoming shows, spinning the Nielsen ratings numbers to their maximum benefit.

Not at BBC America.

The total length of the speeches by EVP of sales Mark Gall and BBC America GM Perry Simon were well under five minutes. The rest of the night was spent marveling at oddity after oddity, and spectacle after spectacle. Sure there was a portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (pictured right), and TVs rolled a loop of BBC America programming, but there were also women dangling from the ceiling on rings, and a ghostly Marie Antoinette-esque figure floating above the bar.

The food was served in a court designed to look like an outdoor street market, with stands for Indian, Chinese, barbeque and of course traditional English meat pies.

An old-fashioned band serenaded the crowd with hits straight out of the 1920’s, while burlesque dancers performed on stage. Around 9 PM, curtains on one side of the room dropped, and a team of fire-breathers performed, before opening up that floor to a dance party.

Given that one would expect the BBC to have a stiff upper lip, many media buyers in attendance were surprised by the display.

“I was totally not expecting this!,” a young woman who said she worked for MediaVest told FishbowlNY. Another buyer, who attended last year’s upfront party, with a “Studio 54” theme, said that it gives BBC America a good reputation.

“Most upfronts are a drag until you get to the party, but these guys seem like they want to be quirky and fun, which makes it more enjoyable for us too.”

Memo to TBS: if you want to make an impact with media buyers, find someone to spit fireballs at them.

Pictures below.

A ghostly figure dangles over the bar
A human candleabra at the BBC America Upfront
A man with whips made of fire performs