NBC, WarnerMedia and others cancel live Upfront events amid coronavirus outbreak

CBS
ViacomCBS canceled what would have been the first live Upfront event after CBS and Viacom recombined last year. (FierceVideo)

NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, WarnerMedia and more media companies are canceling live Upfront events as a precaution against the growing coronavirus outbreak.

NBCUniversal, which had an event scheduled for May 11 in New York City, has opted to televise and stream the event instead. It means audiences won’t get a sneak peek at NBCU’s upcoming 2020-2021 season programming.

"At this moment in time, we can embrace a new future that puts our audiences and our partners first. This year's Upfront Presentation will ensure everyone's safety, while allowing us to give fans and marketers a preview of the upcoming season," said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, in a statement.

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AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Xandr divisions also opted to forego a live Upfront in May.

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“The health and safety of the advertising community, our employees and production partners is our absolute priority, so we will alter our plans for this year’s Upfront presentation,” said Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer at WarnerMedia, and Kirk McDonald, chief business officer at Xandr, in a joint statement. “We have the technological and creative means to showcase our unified WarnerMedia/Xandr message through a unique video experience and will do just that on May 13.”

ViacomCBS, in what would have been the first live Upfront after CBS and Viacom recombined late last year, is also choosing a digital alternative on May 13 to its annual live Upfront presentation in New York City.

“We’ll miss Carnegie Hall and our agency dinners this year, but the health and safety of our clients and the ViacomCBS team comes first,” said Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer at ViacomCBS Domestic Advertising Sales, in a statement. “Our team has been planning for this possibility for weeks, and we have devised a digital showcase to unveil all of the premium content that we’re delivering throughout the company, from CBS Television Network and our robust cable portfolio across the Entertainment & Youth and Premium brands. We won’t miss a beat in engaging with clients around our unmatched offerings and solutions.”

Discovery, Inc. has also canceled its live Upfront presentation.

“With Discovery’s increased scale and reach, we were proud and excited to showcase our expanded portfolio of beloved brands and talent, for the first time, during the traditional broadcast Upfront week. The decision to cancel is bittersweet but unequivocally the right one,” said Jon Steinlauf, Discovery’s chief U.S. ad sales officer, in a statement. “We have a terrific story to tell and more opportunities and products than ever for current and prospective advertisers. We will just tell that story in a way that best suits these unprecedented times.”

A&E, AMC Networks, Fox News Channel and Comcast’s FreeWheel decided earlier to cancel live Upfront events they had planned.

Other major networks including Disney’s ABC and ESPN along with The CW are still scheduled to hold live Upfront presentations this spring.

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