Turner Networks touted its brands this morning at Madison Square Garden, demonstrating – again – why Anderson Cooper and Conan O’Brien need their own show, unveiling CNN’s best Facts First promo to date, as well as Samantha Bee’s This is Not A Game: The Game app for midterms, and chatting up the company’s move to limit ad overload, and the branded content studios Courageous and the all-new Ignite Studios.
Here’s how it went, on ET time:
10:00 AM: “Today will be different; it has to be,” Donna Speciale, president of Turner Ad Sales, begins, sounding no different than ad sales execs who had gone before her in Upfront Week. But then Hamilton star comes out and Turner’s Upfront gets interesting.
10:08 AM: Anderson Cooper is brought out to, for a third year, interview Conan O’Brien and Shaq. But first, he announces, “I glow in the dark, like a sea anemone.”
“Always fresh ideas here at Turner,” Conan snarks of their third Upfront opening at-bat, then turns to Anderson and shrieks, “Why are you here?! It’s my question every year!” Conan reminds the CNN star that he promised last year he and his news network would hold President Trump and his administration accountable for their actions.
“Nobel Peace Prize goes to…!” Conan screams at Cooper of the results. “What are you guys doing?! He’s like King Kong to your little biplanes – Whap Whap! Get to work! There is shit to do, and you’re like ‘Um what does viewing mean to you’!?”
Anderson asks Shaq whose work he admires among those Turner Networks stars in the theater. Shaq says he enjoys everyone. Conan wonders how, given that he spends all his time making TV commercials, and the Q&A is being beamed into Icy Hot HQ.
Conan skewered TBS/TNT chief/his biggest champion Kevin Reilly, who had just finished chatting up Turner’s Omni channel,” which, loosely translated is how they’re reaching viewers beyond linear television.
“The Omni Channel – that’s the word that Turner paid $800K to come up with. I think Kevin Reilly was staying in an Omni hotel at the time. If he’d been staying at the Sheraton, we’d be talking about the Sheraton channel right now.”
Six hilarious minutes later, it’s time to wrap this “interview,” and Conan reads the reminder they got not to mention AT&T, which is trying to take over parent Time Warer, or Michael Cohen – Donald Trump’s personal attorney to whom AT&T paid-for-play to get the merger done. “So I won’t mention it!” Conan mentions.
“This is the stupidest opening ever!” Conan congratulates himself and his companions on stage. It also was the best of Upfront Week so far, as usual.
10:20 AM: Kevin Reilly, president of TNT and TBS, touts new TNT franchise Ridley Scott Presents. “That is a major piece of business!” he crows after videotaped interview with Scott, then introduces TNT’s other new branding franchise, Suspense Collection.
10:31 AM: Sam Bee announces her This is Not A Game: The Game app for midterms. “I don’t just make a weekly TV show; we are so much more than that,” she says. “Last year we held Not White House Corespondents Dinner in Washington,” she says speculating next spring maybe she will “do my coverage of the impeachment hearings.”
“But fall of 2018 is special – an election year. And turn-out sucks, especially for midterms. That is where you come in,” Bee says, asking ad execs “Did I just hear sound of boners?” She vows to wear almost anything on her TBS late-night show Full Frontal to promote their products if they sponsor her app. “Jello, you are looking for a new sponsor!” she gushes, as a photo of Bee in a Bill Cosby-esque sweater appears on screen behind her.
This Is Not A Game: The Game is non-partisan, Bee insists. “I don’t care what your political fetish is: Demo-crap, Republi-can’t, Cuck-servative. We all need to vote before a Russian hacker does it for us!”
10:44 AM: “Look at me now! I’m standing in front of a convention of white people. I made it!” TBS’s The Last OG star Tiffany Haddish raves on stage, adding “I hope that goes viral!”
“I just need to know what you selling,” she says cozying up to the advertiser audience. “Today I think I’m supposed to be selling the TV show. We did that already, we got picked up for another season,” she beamed, adding, “It’s going to do even better next season, because I’m in it. You think I’m kidding? I’m serious.”
“I’m going to the spa after this,” Haddish confides. “I’m trying to learn how to be a white woman.”
10:59 AM: truTV President Chris Linn makes videotaped pitch to ad execs, so he can throw to his network’s At Home With Amy Sedaris star, who explaining how to make a paper fan, launching medley of truTV stars talking about their “fans.” Get it?
11:AM: Turner Sports’ Kristen Ledlow takes the stage, notes she’s worn her suit before on air, and tells advertisers “we take what exciting and cool about sports we’re broadcasting, and find smart ways to make magic with all our partners.” Ledlow promises “our portfolio is about to get lot more engaging” with coverage of “the most popular sport on the planet: UEFA Champions League.”
11:22 AM: CNN’s Upfront at-bat begins with unveiling of its latest Facts First promo. In this one, the apple logo on the back of a mac is changed to a banana, students give teachers bananas, Evil Queen gives Snow White a banana, and one of those famous paintings you learned about in Art Appreciation Class in college has been changed so Eve is tempting Adam with a banana.
“Lies can become truth if we let them. FACTS FIRST” message appears on screen in the promo.
Anderson Cooper returns to the stage: “The last 15 months have seen challenges to the truth like never before,” he says.
Chris Cuomo, CNN’s morning star moving to primetime, joins him to interrupt him.
“There has never been a more important time for what we do,” Cuomo contributes, but blows his new cue.
Cooper notes Cuomo loves to argue on-air.
“That is not true,” Cuomo argues.
“It’s in your DNA,” Cooper insists.
“Is that an Italian joke?” Cuomo argues.
“See? He is argumentative,” Cooper says, happy to have made his point. “Backstage he was arguing with an egg on Twitter,” he adds.
“That egg has friends,” Cuomo argues.
They roll a disturbing video of all the times CNN journalists have sold out and played themselves in movies.
11:26 AM: Turner Networks celebrates Conan O’Brien, in a video that begins with his NBC Late Night audition and runs through recent TBS Conan achievements, including his groundbreaking overseas trips, Clueless Gamer, etc.
Conan returns to stage to marvel at his “amazing ride,” and chat up “the next step” in his career, which he and Kevin Reilly previous announced includes changing his show to a half hour format with fewer celeb interviews and more comedy, as well as touring, podcasting, and “a restaurant chain – more on that later.”
“After 25 years, I now find myself the most excited and energized in my entire career,” he says, crediting his team, Turner execs and “a generic brand of estrogen.”
11:45 AM: TBS’s The OG star Tracy Morgan charms the crowd, making comedy out of his TBS show starring experience and even his car accident. “I was in a coma for 10 days.. had to get a speech therapist and I still talk like this?! Suing her ass!”
He introduces Snoop Dogg, star of TBS’s The Joker’s Wild reboot, who gets advertisers to their feet, but has less success getting them to shout “Yippi Yo!” and “Hell Yea!” and “Do That Shit!” while video clips of various Turner stars dancing on their shows plays behind him. Snoop also delivers THE most memorable exit line of any Upfront presentation in history, when he becomes frustrated finding his way off stage because the mood-inducing smoke machines have been on overdrive.