NBCUniversal Addresses Exec Changes, Writers’ Strike at Upfront Event

'Ted' at NBCUniversal upfront
‘Ted’ on stage at Radio City Music Hall for NBCUniversal’s upfront. (Image credit: Zach Dilgard/NBCUniversal)

NBCUniversal opened its upfront by addressing the various elephants in the room before getting to Peacock.

NBCU opened with dramatic drumming and bright lights heralding “Ted,” the talking bear who is moving from movies to streaming TV with Peacock

In an often foul-mouthed musical number, Ted talked about how the industry needs commercials, even those streaming services that have been late to the party. “Everyone thinks they have a better friggin’ mousetrap” but they come back to what works, Ted serenaded the ad buyers assembled at Radio City Music Hall. “We're begging for all your wonderful ads.”

Ted even took a swipe at Twitter, where former NBCU ad sales head Linda Yaccarino agreed to become CEO late last week, as the place where the “crazies” roost.

Mark Lazarus at NBCU upfronts

Mark Lazarus, chairman, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming at the upfront.  (Image credit: Zach Dilgard/NBCUniversal)

Next on stage was Mark Lazarus, chairman of television and streaming, who joked that he wasn't the one ad buyers expected to see Monday morning. He acknowledged Yaccarino’s departure. “Linda and I have worked together for many many years here at NBC and at Turner,“ he said. “For her many contributions and for building an excellent team here, we want to thank her and wish her well,” he said.

“We've had some changes around here, but the strength, expertise and spirit of this company remains, not only intact but stronger than ever,” Lazarus said.

Lazarus also acknowledged the strike by the Writers Guild of America, which was picketing outside and which meant a shortage of on-screen talent during the presentations.

“We are grateful for the contribution writers make to our company and respect their right to demonstrate,” Lazarus said. “It may take some time, but I know we'll eventually get through this. The result will be a stronger foundation which we can all forward together.”

Without the talent from its primetime and late-night shows, NBCU had news personalities Mario Lopez and Willie Geist present new series along with entertainment chairman Susan Rovner.

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.