NBCU Upfront Show Goes on With Picketing Writers Outside

Grace Potter at NBCU upfront
Grace Potter performs ‘Paris’ on stage during NBCUniversal’s upfront at Radio City Music Hall. (Image credit: Scott Gries/NBCUniversal)

NBCUniversal’s upfront presentation at Radio City Music Hall went down as striking writers protested and picketed outside. “Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go,” they chanted. 

The show began with teddy bear Ted from the Peacock comedy Ted, on screen, singing the praises of TV advertising. “Ain’t no denying, the streamers are dying,” sang Ted. 

Ted also took aim at some other tech giants. “Twitter may seem like the place to begin.

But Twitter just let the crazies back in,” he crooned. 

Mark Lazarus, chairman, NBCU Television and Streaming, followed Ted. “What was more surprising today? Seeing a foul-mouthed teddy bear or seeing me on stage?” he quipped, with NBCU bosses Jeff Shell and Linda Yaccarino no longer part of the company. He then thanked Yaccarino, who left to run Twitter, for her many years at NBCU. 

Mario Lopez was out next, talking up the Peacock true crime series Based on a True Story, with Kailey Cuoco in the cast, the Jon Cryer comedy Extended Family on NBC, and Peacock’s comedic thriller Twisted Metal, with Anthony Mackie in the lead role. 

Amidst the strike, NBCU’s news personalities did the bulk of the work in presenting entertainment fare. Willie Geist, host of Sunday Today, talked up the Saturday Night Live 50th anniversary special planned for February 16, 2025. Susan Rovner, chairman, entertainment content, NBCU television and streaming, spoke about the company’s vast reach across broadcast and broadband, and boasted of Peacock being the nation’s most downloaded streaming app. 

Andrew Ross Sorkin, co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box, shared that Mandy Moore will be on season two of Peacock’s Doctor Death, while also talking up NBC missing persons drama Found and the Annette Benning family drama, with some tennis sprinkled in, called Apples Never Fall. To stream on Peacock, it is based on a Liane Moriarty novel. 

A trio of college sports coaches, Greg Schiano of Rutgers football, Lisa Bluder of Iowa women’s basketball, and James Franklin of Penn State football, spoke about NBC’s Big Ten Saturday Night, including Notre Dame Football. 

Sticking with the sports theme, rock star Grace Potter performed her tune “Paris” as videos of the 2024 Olympics, set in that city, rolled. 

Rafael Amaya

Rafael Amaya of ‘El Señor de los Cielos’ (Image credit: Zach Dilgard/NBCUniversal)

Rafael Amaya of El Señor de los Cielos and William Levy of upcoming show Vuelve A Mi, spoke about Telemundo dramas, and Stephanie Ruhle of The 11th Hour likened dramas to news, noting how a good drama “raises the curtain on the inner workings of other worlds.”

She spoke of NBC’s Jesse L. Martin drama The Irrational, and Peacock’s ancient Rome drama Those About to Die, with Anthony Hopkins. 

Tom Llamas was out next to chat about the Tom Hanks-narrated docuseries The Americas, which he called “an incomparable epic event.”

Then it was a pitch for Bravocon, with the cast of The Real Housewives of NYC onstage, and Zuri Hall, Access Hollywood correspondent and sideline reporter of American Ninja Warrior, speaking about unscripted shows, the better ones that “make headlines and drive conversations, and keep fans invested season after season.”

Reba McEntire was announced as a coach on The Voice this fall, following her season 23 role as mentor. She will coach with Niall Horan, John Legend and Gwent Stefani. McEntire then performed “Fancy.”

NBC News correspondent Savannah Sellers spoke about NBCU movies, and then Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotba of Today toasted NBC News. “No news organization has the multiplatform reach that we do,” said Guthrie. 

Kotb added, “We cover the stories that are driving the news and also the stories that are driving the culture.”

Also sharing the stage at that point were newsies Llamas, Sellers, Sorkin, Joe Fryer, Becky Quick, Joe Kernen, Alex Wagner, Jen Psaki, Steve Kornacki, Vanessa Hauc and Julio Vaqueiro. 

Kornacki said election season is already here. “I’m already spending time at the big board,” he said, “tracking this election every step of the way. 

Mark Marshall, interim chairman of global advertising, then addressed the ad buyers in the crowd before Nick Jonas closed with a couple tracks, “Levels” and “Jealous.”

The streamlined presentation clocked in at around 90 minutes, down from previous years. 

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.