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What are Upfronts?

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Formally known as “upfront presentations” or “upfront announcements”, this is the most important time of year for TV networks. This is an event held in New York once a year in early May where all the TV networks reveal their fall schedule (both old shows and new ones) to advertisers around the world. The networks’ mandate is to sell as much of their commercial ad space (inventory) as possible before the fall season starts. This is the most critical time of year as networks typically sell 80 percent of their next year’s ad space during upfronts. Advertisers are incentivized by lower prices, guaranteed audience levels and exit clauses. The upfront buying season usually lasts until August, however, early May is when the networks present the advertisers with trailers, sales pitches and other forms of presentations in order to woo advertisers. Unsold ad space can still be purchased after upfront season, however, they will be sold at a premium price and audience levels aren’t guaranteed. It’s estimated that advertisers spend approximately $25B on broadcast television ad space and roughly $13B on cable. Because this time of year is so important, showrunners and TV producers must work extremely hard to get their pilots complete before the end of April in time for upfronts. This typically only gives them three months once the pilot is ordered; not a lot of time, especially for an hour long drama which is essentially half of a feature film!

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