Madison Avenue’s Biggest Event Returns, to a Whole New World

For the first time in three years, the circus is coming back to town.

Madison Avenue’s Biggest Event Returns, to a Whole New World

The television industry’s biggest showcase for advertisers, the so-called upfronts, will return to Manhattan landmarks like Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall after the pandemic put the glitzy, in-person galas on hold. Just like in the old days, media executives will make their best pitch to persuade marketers to buy tens of billions of dollars of commercial time in the coming months.

But thanks to the vastly changed media industry, many aspects will be radically different. The companies themselves have changed: CBS merged with Viacom and then renamed itself Paramount Global, and WarnerMedia and Discovery completed a megamerger, forming Warner Bros. Discovery. The tech giant YouTube is making its debut on the presentation lineup this week, and there is already intrigue that Netflix could join the fray next year.

And instead of unveiling prime-time lineups that will roll out in the fall, media companies are expected to spend a large portion of their time talking up advertising opportunities on streaming services like HBO Max, Peacock, Tubi and Disney+. There’s good reason for that: Advertisers are now allocating closer to 50 percent of their video budgets to streaming, up from around 10 percent before the pandemic, several ad buyers said in interviews. The free ad-supported streaming platforms Tubi and Pluto were highlights for their owners, Fox and Paramount, in the most recent quarter.

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