February 2014

Early Start to Upfronts, as ‘The Real’ Cast Meets Advertisers


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The cast of “The Real,” a new talk show that was introduced to advertisers on Wednesday. Starting on the left: Tamar Braxton, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Loni Love, Jeannie Mai and Adrienne Bailon. 

Upfront Nation, rejoice. It is that time again, when purveyors of video programming on television and online woo marketers and agencies to spend advertising dollars on commercial time ahead of the coming season.

The presentations before the start of the 2014-15 season began on Wednesday with a luncheon sponsored by units of the Warner Bros. division of Time Warner at, appropriately, the Time Warner Center in Midtown Manhattan.

Once, not too many years ago, the upfronts did not take place until mid-May. But in recent years the presentations have expanded to fill the calendar from February through May and, in some instances, into the early fall.

In addition to television networks taking part in the upfront market, so, too, do the likes of cable channels, websites, video producers and media conglomerates like Gannett, which has spawned upfront offshoots and spinoffs like the annual Digital Content NewFronts.

The luncheon on Wednesday served to introduce buyers at media agencies like Mindshare and OMD to “The Real,” an hourlong daily talk show with a multicultural cast that the Fox Television Stations unit of 21st Century Fox and the BET cable channel, owned by Viacom, have bought for fall 2014.

“The Real” had a four-week, 20-episode test last summer on seven Fox stations in local markets that included Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia. The results were deemed strong enough by the Warner Bros. units – Telepictures Productions, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Warner Bros. Brand Networks – to give the series a green light.

Those results included ratings as well as this statistic: There were, according to Warner Bros. executives, nine million streams of the test episodes on YouTube.

There are 18 stations around the country owned and operated by Fox that will present “The Real,” along with a same-day broadcast on BET.

The luncheon featured the five women of “The Real” cast, along with production executives, in a frank discussion about the show, television and their lives. Perhaps the best known of the five are Tamar Braxton, the singer and star of reality series like “Braxton Family Values,” and Tamera Mowry-Housley, the actress (“Sister, Sister”) and star of the reality series “Tia & Tamera.”

“The Real” offers advertisers “a distinctive voice you really can’t find on television today,” said John O’Hara, the head of sales whose title is executive vice president for Warner Bros. Brand Networks.

The cast members elaborated on that during a discussion. “There’s no cattiness, no hatery,” said Adrienne Bailon, a singer, actress and reality series star (“Empire Girls”).

Loni Love, a comedian and panelist on “Chelsea Lately” on the E network, said the test shows succeeded because viewers “want realness.”

“They don’t care about my color, my gender or even my weight,” said Ms. Love, a zaftig, 42-year-old black woman who a couple of times made humorous references to her love life; she said she was dating a 23-year-old man.

“Don’t act like we dead,” she said to laughter from the audience.

Ms. Braxton praised “The Real” as “a live version of a Cosmopolitan magazine” rather than a talk show that seeks to urge viewers to diet or buy expensive products to make them feel better about themselves.

The luncheon concluded with the giveaway of a quilted Chanel bag, which the cast members ogled as they passed it among themselves before the prize drawing.

“My God,” said Jeannie Mai, the show’s fashion expert, “it’s the more expensive one.”

Last year, the upfront season began two days after the Super Bowl, compared with this year, when it took three days.

Even before Super Bowl XLVIII was played on Sunday, some networks and media outlets — including Gannett, Telemundo, Univision and the Weather Company — sent reporters “save the date” notices for their upfront presentations in March, April and May.

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