NBCU Held Live Upfront Gathering at the Rainbow Room

Linda Yaccarino during NBCUniversal's 2021 upfront
Linda Yaccarino closing out NBCU's virtual upfront

While the big television companies streamed their virtual upfront presentations so that viewers could watch safely at home last week, NBCUniversal had about 50 media buyers and clients attend a live and in-person lunchtime viewing of the event at the Rainbow Room.

While a far cry from the thousands who traditionally pack Radio City Music Hall for NBCUniversal’s presentation to advertisers, the Rainbow Room event comes at a time when, even as most COVID pandemic restrictions are being lifted, that most companies are still deciding whether to hold even one-on-one meetings in person.

The event was presided over by Linda Yaccarino, NBCU’s chairman of global advertising sales and partnerships. None of the stars of NBCU’s shows were present. Press was not invited.

“I thought it was great,” one attendee said. “You’re in the Rainbow Room. You’re around a lot of people in the industry that you know and, to me, it felt great just to get out and about. It felt normal, which is a good feeling after all these months.”

A media buyer said they weren’t aware of any other formal in-person upfront get togethers.

According to an NBCU spokesperson, the event was intended to celebrate the upfront show, in-person, with New York City-based clients comfortable attending such a gathering.

In addition to the clients, about 17 NBC executives attended, bringing the total in the room to 67 people. Normal capacity for the Rainbow Room — the famous venue atop 30 Rock, where NBCU is headquartered — is 425.

NBCU said that with fewer than 100 people invited, proof of vaccination or COVID test was not required.

Guests had their temperatures taken on-site and were asked to verbally acknowledge that they hadn't been exposed to the virus. Contact tracing measures were in place.

Guests were required to wear masks and socially distance when not seated and eating at tables. All food was individually served and there were no shared items, such as a buffet or cocktail bar.

Media companies generally take COVID protocols seriously because of the importance of being able to continue to create programming without being shut down by someone on-set contracting the virus. NBC's Saturday Night Live featured a full studio last weekend for the first time since the pandemic hit.

NBCU's virtual upfront kicked off upfront week on May 17. The presentation was hosted by Today Show co-anchor Hoda Kotb, daytime talk show host Kelly Clarkson and Bravo’s Andy Cohen, with Yaccarino closing the proceedings.

"This is the magic of NBCUniversal. It's the future of media, technology and culture. And we're inviting you to be a part of it," said Yaccarino during the presentation. "Live from New York, we're only just getting started. We'll see you next year."

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.