Upfront week is a TV business tradition that has evolved over the decades with more networks joining the broadcasters and the number of parties going up. But the annual dog-and-pony show, which this year kicks off May 15, is heading for a potential jolt after WGA members overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike. The walkout could begin as soon as next week if the current final round of talks between the union and the producers is unsuccessful.
With a strike looming, the upfront agency parties will be scaled back this year. ICM Partners has canceled its annual dinner for clients with the argument that many of them could be at the picket lines at the time. WME also has shelved its late-night cocktail party, held on Monday of upfront week, given the possibility of a strike. If a new WGA deal is made, the agency is leaving the door open to reinstating the bash in some form at the last minute. WME’s long-standing and exclusive Peter Luger Steakhouse dinner will take place as usual. Boutique lit agency Verve is keeping its Tuesday night party but with the caveat it will take place if there is no strike. UTA’s well-attended Sunday night soiree, which kicks off the marathon of upfront week events, is on, as is CAA’s Monday party, Gersh’s Tuesday reception and Innovative Artists’s bash, which is moving from Tuesday to Monday.
As usual, ABC’s presentation is slated to feature a roast by Jimmy Kimmel, a long-time upfronst highlight. As we reported, a writers strike could impact his and other late-night comedians’ upfront appearances as some of their material is written last minute. Additionally, writers may chose to picket the networks’ upfront presentations, which could prevent talent from attending.
There will be a major vacancy in Carnegie Hall as CBS’ entertainment president Glenn Geller, who made his debut presenting the network’s schedule last year, is on a medical leave after suffering a mild heart attack and is not slated to return to work until late May. As usual, CBS is keeping mum on its plans, but the network’s long-time scheduling chief Kelly Kahl is a logical choice to step in for Geller, with CBS CEO Leslie Moonves possibly expanding his usually brief intro. Kahl leads the charge in assembling CBS’ schedule, and he has done dry runs co-presenting the network’s lineup alongside Geller and his predecessor Nina Tassler at CBS’ press breakfast the morning of CBS’ upfront presentation.
Other changes this year include NBCUniversal’s presentation starting a little earlier that usual, at 10:30 AM, and Univision dropping its traditional post-upfront presentation lunch reception, which will be replaced by a series of client and partner lunches. Headlining Adult Swim’s bash this year is Drake, following such recent acts as Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus, while CBS’ party is repeating at The Plaza Hotel after wowing attendees with the posh new digs last year.
Here is a list of the upfront festivities (all times ET):
SUNDAY, MAY 14
9:30 PM: UTA Annual Upfronts Kick-off Reception
Beauty and Essex, 146 Essex St.
MONDAY, MAY 15
10:30 AM: NBCUniversal Upfront Presentation
Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas
4 PM: Fox Upfront Presentation
The Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway,
Post-Party, Wollman Rink, Central Park & 59th Street
6:30 PM: NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises invitation-only private party
The Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City
8 PM: Innovative Artists Party
Slate, 54 West 21st Street (Between 5th and 6th Ave)
9 PM: NBCUniversal Private After-Party
Del Posto, 85 10th Ave.
10 PM: CAA Private Party
Location not disclosed
TUESDAY, MAY 16
9:15 AM: ESPN Upfront; Breakfast at 8:15 AM
Minskoff Theatre, 200 W. 45th Street
4 PM: ABC Upfront Presentation, featuring Jimmy Kimmel
David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, 132 West 65th Street
8 PM: Gersh Upfront Party
The Jane Hotel, 113 Jane St
8:30 PM: WME Upfronts Private Dinner for clients and studio executives
Peter Luger Steakhouse, 178 Broadway, Brooklyn
9 PM: Verve Upfront Party (tentative, if a new WGA-AMPTP deal is reached)
The Cannibal, 113 E 29th St (Between Park and Lex)
WEDNESDAY, MAY 17
10:15 AM: Turner Upfront Presentation
The Theater at Madison Square Garden
12 PM: National CineMedia Upfront Event
AMC Lowes Lincoln Square Theater, 1998 Broadway; Lunch will be served
4 PM: CBS Upfront Presentation
Carnegie Hall, 881 7th Ave. (57th Street and 7th Ave)
Reception to follow at The Plaza Hotel, Main entrance on Fifth Avenue at Central Park South
9 PM: Adult Swim Party; music performer Drake
Terminal 5, 610 W 56 St.
11:30 PM: truTV’s Hang After Party; music by DJ Cassidy (private, invite-only event following the Adult Swim Upfront party)
Stage 48, 605 West 48th St.
THURSDAY, MAY 18
7 PM: The CW Private After Party
Location not disclosed