Another upfront season is behind us, and in retrospect, a few things were different about this year’s collection of Madison Ave brown-nosing sessions. Many nets used the events to break news—like Fox Sports ‘ official announcement of its long-anticipated national sports network, FS1. FX also revealed details about its new net FXX, which will target younger audiences. Whereas last year Nickelodeon produced a big show with big names (UK boy band "One Direction," for example), this season it detailed its strategy for catering to post-Millennials and provided new research to back it up. And most recently, Univision announced an investment in upcoming young adult-themed, English-language net El Rey, which will get carriage on Comcast.
This brings us to another motif: younger audiences. It appears that everyone has a strategy to capture their cross-platform-devouring eyeballs. (Pivot, Participant Media‘s soon-to-launch net targeting Millennials, may have a jump on others with its plan to launch as both a pay TV and broadband service). Scripted was also hot. Not only are digital-only outlets like Yahoo! and Crackle crowing about originals, but Crown Media Family Nets, Science Channel, Discovery Channel and Bravo are all dipping their toes in scripted for the first time. Yahoo! and Crackle are betting on comedy.
In sum, the upfronts and NewFronts brought us actual news this year beyond the musical acts and canapes. But we’d be remiss for not discussing a few highlights—just for kicks:
Most innovative: DirecTV. At its first-ever upfront, the DBS op pulled off (with minor glitches) an addressable advertising demo, which tailored experiences to match attendees’ tastes—from preferred theater candy to marital status.
Most repeated phrase: "Most affluent audience in cable." Too many networks claim this honor for it to be true. Close second: "We have the reach."
Strangest moment: It had to Microsoft‘s Cirque De Soleil-style dancers. An hour into the "presentation," contortionists still danced and writhed on stage. (It seems the NewFronts are still learning.)
Biggest star: DirecTV brought 3 NFL players, including Eli Manning, for advertisers to fawn over. It’s probably a tie with YouTube, though, which landed Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg… don’t ask).
Biggest announcement: Fox Sports. Fox kept the launch of FS1 a "secret" in order to build buzz but deemed the upfront the right time to announce the network’s launch date, name and programming.
Best venue: IFC. It’s not the actual venue, but rather what they did with it. The net transformed the Roseland Ballroom into an amusement park—with a roller rink, a dunk tank and a yearbook-themed photo booth.
Biggest bang: USA. You can’t get much bigger than fireworks.