NBC News Group Makes Ad Sales Pitch At Upfront

By Alex Weprin 

The NBC News Group, including NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC, held an upfront presentation today at the New York Public library in midtown Manhattan. The Celeste Bartos Forum in the Library was lit up in shades of purple and blue, as media buyers and advertisers mingled with NBC News executives and talent.

Newly-minted MSNBC 8 PM host Chris Hayes was there, as was Matt Lauer, the co-anchor of “Today” who has been at the center of a number of news stories of late. He seemed to take the stories in stride, joking with Savannah Guthrie onstage:

“I would like to tackle what might be a teeny white elephant in the room,” Lauer said to laughter from the crowd. “We all love covering the news,  we hate being the news, and so I would like to say on that subject–from the bottom of my heart–that I promise to spend all of my time and energy over the next several months trying to keep Savannah out of the headlines. ”

We want to go back to the most-watched morning program and the least talked about morning program,” he added.

Lauer sat next to NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke during the lunch, and “Today” was the final NBC News property pitched during the presentation, emphasizing how important the show is to the network.

In line with previous upfronts, Brian Williams kicked things off with a “Rock Bottom” segment about the upfront, and the presentation included a roundtable discussion about the state of the U.S., featuring MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Alex Wagner, CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo and Carl Quintanilla, and NBC’s David Gregory. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski played off of each other while talking about their parents, and pickpocket Apollo Robbins stole things from an audience member, as he did to Willie Geist on “Today” a few months back.

NBC News Group chairman Pat Fili-Krushel revealed a number of factoids about the group designed to showcase its reach, like that “NBC Nightly News” attracts more young viewers than “The Daily Show,” or that when CNBC aired the on-air fight between Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman, trading on the New York Stock Exchange fell by 22%.

With regard to “Today,” Fili-Krushel said “we have spent the lasts several months evolving the show, and we are really pleased with the direction it is headed.” She also touted the multiplatform nature of the unit. The company is planning to relaunch NBCNews.com in the fourth quarter of this year, while the new MSNBC.com will go live this Summer. They are also building a “digital studio” for Today.com, where original content will be created for the site.