What are Upfronts?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The upfronts are an important annual event in North American television, during which television executives meet with advertisers, critics, and the press to talk about their planned programming for the next television season. By tradition, the upfronts are held in New York City over the last week of May, and they are typically quite lavish, with events being thrown at prominent venues such as the Radio City Music Hall. Because network schedules are typically unveiled at the upfronts, they typically receive a great deal of media coverage, with eager fans checking on the offerings of their favorite networks.

Upfronts allow television executives to meet with advertisers and critics to talk about their planned programming.
Upfronts allow television executives to meet with advertisers and critics to talk about their planned programming.

During the upfronts, advertisers are given an opportunity to purchase advertising up front, before the season begins and advertising opportunities become expensive and limited. Many advertisers use the upfronts to negotiate particularly favorable spots for their advertisements; for example, a cell phone company might try to run an ad after an important scene involving a cellphone.

The focal point of the upfronts is the revelation of new series. During presentations for new series, executives typically show clips from the series, talk about the direction the first season will head in, and sometimes introduce some of the actors, who may be flown out for the occasion. These presentations are typically accompanied with lavish spreads of food, and the audience may be given various promotional products, with the goal of keeping the series and the network foremost in their minds.

In Canada, the upfronts are held several weeks after the upfronts in the United States, and the event tends to be a bit less glamorous. Canadian upfronts are typically held later because Canadian networks want to wait until they have acquired rebroadcasting rights for American series, so that they can bring these series to their promotional events.

In addition to introducing new series, the upfronts also showcase existing series, and the network's schedule for the fall and winter is revealed. Information is typically provided about midseason pickups as well, allowing advertisers to get a good idea of what's coming in the year ahead.

Some critics have pointed out that the upfronts are no longer as necessary as they once were, since the Internet has reduced the need for a formal presentation. Instead, networks could give advertisers and the media restricted access to streaming video, DVDs, and other materials to market upcoming shows. However, the upfronts have become such an institution that they are unlikely to change any time soon; undoubtedly executives, advertisers, and media alike enjoy the parties, food, and other events associated with the upfronts.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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