Living the NBCU “Experience”

rock-center.jpgInstead of a big, crazy upfront presentation at Radio City, NBC Universal this year invited advertisers and media to its Experience at 30 Rockefeller Center. Here’s a guided tour:

First off, you’re greeted by a TV screen featuring clips from NBC stars like Tina Fey and Brian Williams, who make some jokes and ham it up and basically tell you to move along, which you were really going to do anyway since you’re just standing there in the hallway.

There really isn’t a lot to see in the first few rooms (promotional videos, etc) except that walking around are a bunch of people dressed in all black with, if you can picture it, video screens on their chests.

The screens had games that you could play; one told you what character you’d be in “The Office,” and another asked you some trivia questions (I approached it like school, took some wild guesses and got two out of three).

Things soon picked up. First a screening room featuring trailers of some of the upcoming releases like “Momma Mia” and “The Incredible Hulk,” then a “Deal or No Deal” exhibit featuring the gameshow’s models walking about in sequined red dresses.

Flying blind into the upfronts?

drone.jpgOne thing you can bank on next week is that the TV networks won’t be showing off dazzling pilots of new shows at the upfronts, as we highlighted in a preview.

Executives have made no secret of the fact that pilots are costly, and, it seems, not all that useful. Already, NBC previewed their season with little more than a few very, very short clips. CBS, ABC and Fox aren’t expected to offer a whole lot more.

So what do advertising buyers think of this brave new world without pilots? Are they and their clients comfortable shelling out big bucks without seeing a full episode of a new comedy or drama.

CBS pumped about more subdued upfront!

moonves.jpgHold on to your hats, it’s time for the upfronts!

Or maybe it’s “hold your horses” instead. We forgot for a moment that this year the annual advertising bonanza is supposed to be a bit more subdued.

Still, CBS chief executive Les Moonves sounded fairly pumped up about the presentation on May 14, telling analysts that he felt “truly excited about this year’s show because it clearly showcases the way we are refining our media assets and updating our programming to match the needs of today’s market.”

Advertising prices, he said during CBS’s earnings conference call, have been up in the double digits in the scatter market, leading him to forecast a “healthy upfront selling season.”

Nothing upfront about NBC’s upfronts

silverman.jpgSo NBC rolled out its 2008-09 schedule — it covers all 52 weeks, comes six weeks earlier than normal, and, without any pilots or trailers to showcase the new programs, leaves quite a lot to the imagination.

Take the ”The Office” spin-off. NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman sidestepped every question about the show, saying only that it would launch after the Super Bowl with Greg Daniels heading up the project. Other than that? Zip.

Mostly, NBC executives focused on broader themes of the programs and the season. This is how they basically want the scheduling to play: 8-9 p.m. is family hour; 9-10 p.m. is big hit, big show hour; 10-11 p.m is high end, adult dramas.