Brian Williams Returns to the NBCU Upfront Stage

By A.J. Katz 

We’ve entered the busiest week of the year for the television industry: Upfronts week!

NBCUniversal kicks things off this morning from Radio City Music Hall. The new Fox will give its best sales pitch to Madison Avenue later this afternoon, from the Beacon Theater.

Each broadcast network’s news division traditionally gets a few minutes on stage during these upfronts to talk about their work.


NBC News dispatched some of its personalities to the Radio City stage. NBC’s Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, NBC/Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart (who will most certainly also appear at Telemundo’s celebration this evening), as well as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, CNBC’s Becky Quick, and MSNBC’s Brian Williams appeared together on-stage for roughly four minutes.

Each personality read a sentence from the teleprompter, touting NBC News’ successes, resources, and overall reach as reasons why advertisers should throw $$ at NBC as 2020 beckons.

“Remember when we said the last election would be the most consequential in a decade?,” said Williams. “We were right.”

He added: “This coming year, the world will be watching as we cover perhaps the most consequential election of our lifetime. It’s an election that will define our nation for years to come, and it’s already underway.”

The brief News segment of the presentation ended with a sizzle reel consisting of remarks about the upcoming presidential election made by various NBCU News personalities.

The folks who appear on stage for these presentations to the advertising community to considered the faces of their respective networks, for all intents and purposes. The first six names make sense. However, as our Adweek colleague Jason Lynch notes, seeing Williams on stage is a bit surprising.

It appears that powers that be at NBC News and MSNBC feel enough time has passed for Williams to be considered one of its most marketable personalities again.

The NBC News vet, who now hosts the No. 1 cable news program in the 11 p.m. hour among total viewers, was booted from the NBC Nightly News and given a six-month suspension from the network in February 2015 for telling and re-telling the story of being in a helicopter that came under fire during his coverage of the Iraq War in 2003. A story which was made up.

NBC chairman Andy Lack brought back Williams in the summer of 2016, and gave him the title of “breaking news anchor” for MSNBC, the network where he actually started. He was also given the network’s 11 p.m. hour.  The 11th Hour with Brian Williams was meant to be a “pop up show” in the lead up to the presidential election. But “pop-up” turned into permanent after the program saw early success. The rest is history.

Adweek will be providing in-depth coverage of each broadcast network’s upfront for the entire week. Check us out!