NBCU Plays Up Scale at Upfront Presentation

Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon came running onto the stage to kick off the NBCUniversal upfront, in running shorts, an homage to Apple’s iconic “1984” spot.

“My idol, Linda Yaccarino!” he howled, as the chairman of ad sales and client partnerships stepped onto the stage.

“Today we’re celebrating advertising and the extraordinary content that makes this industry the best it’s ever been,” said Yaccarino.

She played up the scale of NBCU. “Meaningful, smart, safe scale--safe for brands and safe for consumers,” said Yaccarino.

She talked up NBCU’s upcoming streaming platform, calling it “an experience that consumers can enjoy, and trust. The shows that people love the most, and stream the most, are coming home.”

Yaccarino mentioned the platform’s free admission.

Next was the Saturday Night Live cast, including Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson and Alex Moffatt doing an episode of Family Feud with NBC News taking on its entertainment counterpart. Thompson played Steve Harvey.

NBCU’s networks include NBC, Telemundo, CNBC, USA Network, Syfy and Bravo. USA announced it will bring back The Biggest Loser in 2020. 

La Voz host Luis Fonsi performed, then Kate Del Castillo of Telemundo smash La Reina del Sur came onstage. She spoke of how “NBCU can superserve this influential audience.”

Then it was Rami Malek, star of Mr. Robot on USA, talking up USA series Briarpatch, from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail. He introduced Briarpatch star Rosario Dawson, who shared clips of Briarpatch and Syfy’s Resident Alien.

Brie and Nikki Bella of WWE were up next, talking up Monday Night Raw on USA.

Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner spoke about unscripted fare, including their own Keeping Up With the Kardashians on E!, Watch What Happens Live and Below Deck on Bravo, and Temptation Island and Chrisley Knows Best on USA.

NBC Sports commentator Mike Tirico was out next. Tirico talked about the 7,000 hours of Olympic programming coming up from Tokyo in summer 2020. “It isn’t just about sports, it’s about something human, which is so much bigger,” he said.

Thirteen female medal winners then came out, winning a standing ovation from the Radio City audience.

NBC News then took its turn, with Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, Jose Diaz-Balart, Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow speaking from stage. Williams spoke about “An election that will define our nation for years to come, and it’s already underway.”Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, cast members on This Is Us, introduced upcoming NBC series, including drama Council of Dads. NBC has ordered three more seasons of This Is Us.

Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order: SVU, spoke of the “extraordinary legacy” of NBC dramas, and SVU’s long run. “I’m so incredibly proud that our show broke network taboos,” she said, such as sexual violence. The show is “still fighting to bring these issues out of the darkness and into the light.”

She shared clips of Bluff City Law, with Jimmy Smits as a lawyer and father of a lawyer in Memphis, and Lincoln, based on The Bone Collector.

Ryan Eggold and Freema Agyeman of New Amsterdam shared the trailer from Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

Ted Danson of The Good Place introducing himself as “legendary actor Ted Danson,” dished on NBC comedies past and present, including Seinfeld, Will & Grace and Saturday Night Live.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler got a robust reaction from the crowd. Fey saluted NBC for supporting “talented weirdos” such as she and Poehler. Clips followed from new NBC comedies, including Perfect Harmony, about a choir and starring Bradley Whitford and Anna Camp; and Indebted, with Fran Drescher and Adam Pally. Michael Schur’s Sunnyside, starring Kal Penn, was also shared.

Seth Meyers, host of Late Night, was out next. He noted his four years at the NBC upfronts. “Seth Meyers at upfronts is one of the longest running shows on NBC,” he said.

Meyers talked about NBC’s streaming service, saying the “OTT” describing it will stand for “oh, that thing” in a few years.

After the success of Brooklyn Nine-Nine on NBC following its run on Fox, Meyers suggested NBC pick up Game of Thrones after it wraps next week on HBO, figuring the dragon drama has a few good seasons left

He saluted Rami Malek, making note of Malek’s acting chops. “How about when he came out here and said, ‘It’s great to be here!’ So believable!” said Meyers.

Meyers quipped about a crossover show called Chicago This Is Us, and bid farewell to Kathie Lee Gifford. “She’s the first person to leave the Today show willingly,” said Meyers.

Yaccarino returned to the stage. She mentioned how the NBCU portfolio reaches 93% of people in the U.S. “Like any good partner, we’re always always transparent with you. You’ll know exactly what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how it benefits your brand,” she said.

Yaccarino said NBCU has the “best content in the world.”

“Sunrise to sunset all over the world no one brings it together like Comcast-NBCUniversal,” she said.

The Voice coaches, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and John Legend, then performed a musical number, wrapping up the hour-and-45-minute gala. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.