Conan O’Brien hasn’t been working his network’s Upfront Week presentation as long as has Jimmy Kimmel, who literally created the franchise 17 years ago.
But this year WarnerMedia deployed Conan far more strategically than did Disney with Kimmel. ABC’s late-night star literally was the last act of Disney’s Upfront presentation on Tuesday, taking the stage before only exit-musician John Mayer. Disney’s presentation so clearly needed crowd charming at the outset.
Once again Conan entirely won over, and warmed up, exhausted media buyers who’d dragged themselves out of bed Wednesday morning to attend the Upfront Presentation Formerly Known As Time Warner’s. Having already given up their Mothers Day and slogged through two solid days of program pitching at venues around Manhattan, ad execs revived, like newly watered seedlings, applauding and guffawing as fearless Conan scorched Time Warner’s new owner AT&T and his new WarnerMedia boss John Stankey, cheap-shotted the easy-target primetime stars of CNN, and even went after the guy who orchestrated Conan’s doomed-to-fail run on NBC’s Tonight Show, the now WarnerMedia chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports Jeff Zucker.
Here are some of the highlights:
– Wow this again! This is fantastic! This never gets old!..I was worried you guys would be a little tight this morning, but John Stankey came out and whipped you into a frenzy! He invented the telephone apparently! True story. I just met John Stankey backstage and we had a very nice and warm moment. This really happened. I said hello and he said, ‘I thought we got rid of you’.” Probably that’s next year.
– Welcome to the Upfront, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the Oscars for people who love PowerPoint. Why does anyone come to this? I know why I am here – it’s contractual. I don’t know why you are here. I’m going to keep this very brief, I’m headed to an industry party I found on the WGA staffing app.
– This is the first upfront we’ve had since Time Warner was bought by AT&T. And because this is AT&T, after the show, there will be a terrible reception. Because it’s AT&T, the after-party only has two bars. (Conan followed that gag with a pause, then added, “You are looking at a man with very little time left in the industry,” getting his biggest laugh.)
– Things are looking up though. This fall, WarnerMedia will be launching their much anticipated streaming service. That’s exciting. Yes! I like their slogan: Make WarnerMedia your seventh streaming service. No official name yet for the upcomng WarnerMedia streaming service although three popular contenders are: HBO+, WarnerMedia Now, and, my personal favorite Stankeyvision.
AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner being maybe the biggest media story of the past year, Conan noted Hollywood already is working on a TV movie about the takeover, and revealed he’d gotten his hands on the casting:
– The new CEO of WarnerMedia John Stankey will be played by James Taylor. Very excited about that. That’s James Taylor being told who John Stankey is. I’m hitting him a little hard and he is my new boss so I’m just going to change that up right now: John Stankey is going to be played by a shirtless Chris Evans.
– John’s boss, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson will be played by muppet Guy Smiley, sitting over there – and he’s not happy.
– The president of TBS and TNT and the chief content officer for WarnerMedia’s new streaming service Kevin Reilly will be played by the Australian comic Hannah Gatsby.
-WarnerMedia Entertainment’s new chairman Bob Greenblatt will be played by the guy on the box of Just For Men: Ginger. Let’s just let that sit for a while.
– New chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports Jeff Zucker will be played by Mini-Me. Now that’s just good casting! We go way back, he and I.
– CNN news star Wolf Blitzer will be played by a Furby. CNN’s Anderson Cooper will be played by an albino Sphynx cat. Probably not a healthy one.
– Characters from HBO’s Game of Thrones, Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion Lannister will be played by Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr.