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Kimmel Praises ABC’s Social Distancing from Young Viewers

Jimmy Kimmel (Image credit: Disney)

Even at a virtual upfront--or roadshow, Jimmy Kimmel was able to bite the hand that feeds him.

For nearly 20 years, the late-night host has been a highlight of the ABC upfront, now a show about the entire Disney’s portfolio--poking fun at his bosses, condemning broadcasting, insulting advertising in general and media buyers in particular, and even taking shots at competitors.

Related: Disney Shows Creative, Tech Muscle at Virtual Roadshow 

This year, Disney Ad Sales president Rita Ferro introduced Kimmel, who appeared to show up at an empty David Geffen Hall in New York’s Lincoln Center, where ABC had held upfronts for decades.

Related: Disney’s Ferro On This Year’s Market and the Upfront’s Future 

Considering he works for Disney, Kimmel dropped an F-bomb right away as he realized he was alone in the auditorium.  “Here I am standing here like a fucking fool. I feel like everyone on Quibi right now,” he said.

Related: ABC’s Burke Tells Buyers New Shows Are In the Works 

“Many of you thought there’s no way that the ABC upfront could possibly be worse. And to that I say welcome to the Disney Virtual Roadshow. We call it a road show because just like the Roadshow on PBS, we are selling antiques.

Kimmel joked about the recent management turnover at Disney. “We are a mess. We don’t know who our boss is. [Former Disney executive] Kevin Mayer quit us to go work for Chinese identity thieves,” he said. “Even our executives are leaving us for a younger audience . . . because he didn’t get to be the Bob. Everybody wants to be the Bob. Bob Iger, as you know, stepped down as CEO in February and Bob Chapek took over. Good timing, right?”

Speaking of timing, Kimmel noted the effect of the pandemic. “ What a time to be on planet Earth. Who’d have guessed one of the only things alive and well in the year 2020 would be network television,” he said, adding “What an exciting time to be an ad buyer. At any moment the president of the United States could claim that drinking your product cures the Coronavirus.

ABC, he said, was well prepared for the pandemic. “Our shows have been socially distancing themselves from young people for year.” he cracked.

Kimmel called NBC the biggest loser. “Remember last year how those dicks kept bragging about the Olympics? This is what you get for being a show-off. The truth is I don't know what they’re whining about over there. They could just run the Olympics from 2016 again. Who the fuck would know?”

Disney has something better than the Olympics, Kimmel said. “Disney Plus is thriving. That’s right, our most successful platform is the one you’re not allowed to be on.” he said. 

NBC has launched its own, streaming platform, Peacock. “Peacock is if you’ve ever said, ‘Gee, I can’t find that DVD boxed set of Frasier my sister bought me for Christmas in 2005. I wish there was an easy way I could pay for it every month forever,” he said.

Peacock has vowed not to run more than five minutes of advertising per hour, and the “advertising community has vowed not to buy more than four minutes of advertising per hour.” he added.

Jimmy Kimmel appears to be in an empty Lincoln Center theater during Disney's virual upfront roadshow.

Jimmy Kimmel appears to be in an empty Lincoln Center theater during Disney's virual upfront roadshow. (Image credit: Disney)

Kimmel attempted to make some advanced advertising jokes, noting that data can tell you when a viewer will need a new vacuum and give you their address so you can drive to their house and steal the new vacuum from their porch.

“We have programmatic buying, where the machine to the purchasing, like when your Roomba gets horny and orders you another Roomba,” he said. And as far as ROI goes, forget the ‘R’ this year. There will be no return on your investment. It’s just one of the sacrifices you’re going to have to make to keep us afloat.”

He noted that platforms come and go, but television is here to stay, whether you watch it or not. “Let’s remember what TV doesn’t do. TV doesn't buffer. TV never freezes up on you. TV doesn't constantly suggest which other shows you should watch.  TV doesn't ask you for a password you can't remember or ask if you accept cookies or start playing the next episode without giving you time to say you don't want to watch another episode and then before you know it. the sun's coming up you just finished a whole season of Riverdale. And most importantly TV will never ever keep a list of all the porn you've ever watched.”

Kimmel noted that this year’s upfront couldn’t be done in person because “there’s a vulnerable population of elderly CBS viewers we have to protect." Yes, a joke about CBS having old viewers.

“Maybe next year. You want shrimp? Next year we’ll give you a shrimp. But in the meantime we need cash. Disneyland hasn’t sold a churro in months, and to make up for it we are going to ream your asses this year,” he said.

In these uncertain times, no one knows how much time we have left, “and you just wasted a half hour on this. Thank you for doing that. And we’ll mail you some shrimp.”

Jon Lafayette
Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.