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NBCU Cable: Getting Together, Feeling All Right

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NBCUniversal hammered away at its “All Together. Different” marketing theme throughout last week’s upfronts in New York—at presentations for NBC and Telemundo, in ads on bus stop shelters, even in giant banners hanging outside the Jacob Javits Convention Center. But nowhere was that synergistic message pounded more than at the presentation for NBCUniversal’s cable brands, which closed out two months’ worth of industry upfronts.

In past years, NBCU’s cable networks have presented individually. This year they gathered at the Javits “under one ginormous tin roof,” as Bonnie Hammer, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group chairman, put it in her opening remarks. The fast-moving, roughly 90-minute event was heavy on sizzle reels and appearances by stars from the nets—including Kim Kardashian, Joan Rivers, Tricia Helfer, Andy Cohen and Anne Heche. The Soup’s Joel McHale, who closed the show, got off one of the night’s better lines: “Today we’re announcing a brand-new network—Sizzle: The Sizzle Reels Network, everybody. All sizzle reels, all the time.”

The presentation featured promotions for 18 shows across six different networks, with an emphasis on scripted series, particularly at networks such as E! and Bravo, which are making their first forays into the format—E! with The Royals, Bravo with Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce and Odd Mom Out. Syfy, which Hammer said is “doubling down” on the science-fiction genre, teased scripted dramas Ascension, Dominion and 12 Monkeys. USA promoted its own new dramas Rush, Satisfaction and Complications, as well as forthcoming event series Dig.

But, as Hammer said in her opening, the real point of having the networks present en masse was “to get across the idea of the collective strength of the most engaging, focused and creative brands in the business.” To that end, the company’s cross-brand marketing initiative, dubbed “symphony,” came up throughout the evening—in a rap about brand synergy (from Royal Pains star Mark Feuerstein), in a video featuring the networks’ stars playing musical instruments and in remarks from NBCUniversal advertising sales president Linda Yaccarino, who said, “In a world of fragmentation, aggregation means a lot.”

Or, as McHale put it, “The key word here is aggregation, aggregation, aggregation, entertainment. Say it with me over and over. It means something.”