Buyers Will Have to Choose Between FX and AMC’s Popular Upfront Events

Scheduling snafu leads to network face-off

Two of cable's biggest networks will unexpectedly host dueling upfront events on April 6.
Sources: AMC, Patrick Harbron/FX

We’re already in the thick of Peak TV—in which the number of scripted series released each year has more than doubled since 2009—and now we’ve also reached Peak Upfronts.

On April 6, buyers and advertisers in New York will have to choose between two upfront events happening simultaneously, both of which are traditionally highlights of the cable ad-buying season. AMC Networks will be holding its first combined upfront presentation for its five networks at Skylight Clarkson North, while a mile and a half away, FX Networks will screen the premiere episode of Fargo Season 3, followed by its annual all-star bowling party at Lucky Strike Manhattan.

While multiple upfront-related events are often held during the same day—especially during the two weeks of NewFronts and the broadcast upfront week in May—it’s rare for two of them to occur at the very same time. The overlap seems to be an honest mistake, as FX set its date without realizing AMC Networks had already locked in the same night for its own event.

The Video Advertising Bureau helps coordinate each year’s events with a calendar sent to ad sales, marketing and special events professionals at its member networks. Networks can register their upfront events on the VAB’s calendar but are not required to do so. AMC registered its date with the VAB in January, but FX has not participated in the VAB’s calendar.

FX sent its invites out a couple weeks ago, but it wasn’t aware of the conflict until Adweek pointed it out earlier this week. The network was apologetic but said it is too far along into its preparations to change its date at this late point, especially because it has already arranged to have so much of its talent on hand for that evening.

"Honestly, I think a lot of it will depend on whether American Horror Story is your favorite show or Walking Dead."
David Campanelli, svp, director of national broadcast for Horizon Media

AMC Networks declined to comment, though the company already has hundreds of RSVPs for its event, which is its first combined presentation for its five networks: AMC, BBC America, IFC, WE tv and SundanceTV.

Buyers will have a tough decision to make, given that both company’s events are usually hot tickets. For now, agencies expect to divvy their teams up, so that both events are covered, with a few buyers attempting to hit both AMC and FX’s gatherings during the evening.

“Honestly, I think a lot of it will depend on whether American Horror Story is your favorite show or Walking Dead,” said David Campanelli, svp, director of national broadcast for Horizon Media.

While AMC had moved away from big upfront events in recent years, FX has held its gathering in late March or early April each year for the past seven years. Recently, FX has added a high-profile screening on the night for buyers in addition to the annual bowling party. In 2015, it aired the Season 1 premiere of Fargo, while last year, attendees watched the finale of The People v. O.J. Simpson.

These upfront conflicts are rare, but they aren’t unheard of. Last year, Crown Media Networks’ upfront celebration occurred on the same night as, yes, FX’s event.