Writers’ Strike Dims Star Power as Networks Take Upfront Stage

Writer's Guild Strike
Picketers outside Peacock's NewFront presentation. (Image credit: JL)

The TV networks’ upfront presentations will have less star power this year because of the strike by the Writers Guild of America.

Netflix last week canceled what was to be the streaming service’s first live upfront presentation at the Paris Theater because picketers planned to disrupt the event and police were concerned about pedestrian safety.

But some actors and actresses are also expected to sit out this year’s upfronts out of solidarity with their fellow unionists.

“We’re going to be missing a few people next week,” Rita Ferro, president of advertising sales and partnerships at The Walt Disney Co., said.

As of last week, Ferro said some talent was expected to appear at the company’s upfront on Tuesday. “You’re going to see a beautiful show that will showcase everything about entertainment, sports and streaming on Disney,” she said.

Disney wasn’t going to let picketers prevent its presentation. “We’ve taken all the precautions we need to make sure everyone is safe and can get in and out of the venue,” she said. “We’re going to have a beautiful event.”

Unclear is whether or not Disney’s late-night star Jimmy Kimmel will show up to deliver his annual roast of the networks — including Disney’s own ABC — to the assembled media buyers. Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon, who usually appear at NBCUniversal’s upfront extravaganza on Monday morning at Radio City Music Hall, may also be in no condition to joke with their writers not working.

Another familiar face unlikely to be on stage at the NBCU upfront is longtime ad sales chairman Linda Yaccarino, who abruptly left the company last week to become CEO of Elon Musk’s Twitter. Yaccarino’s ad-sales department sells ads again NBCU content on Twitter and recently announced a deal putting NBCU coverage of the 2024 Paris Olympics on Twitter.

Execs in Spotlight at Fox 

Fox will be making its presentation Monday afternoon.

“We’re not as reliant on entertainment and entertainment talent,” Marianne Gambelli, president of ad sales at Fox, said.

“We will have all our sports, all our news talent. None of our entertainment talent,” she said. “It’s kind of sad they’re not going to be there.

Fox’s entertainment executives will be present the company’s entertainment programming, Gambelli said.

Media Matters for America and MoveOn announced they plan to have trucks with signage circling the Fox upfront venue in an attempt to discourage advertisers from supporting Fox News Channel.

The trucks will bear messages including “Your money fuels Fox’s Hate,” "Don’t buy the lies Fox News is selling” and “Fox News is toxic to your brand.”

Media Matters and MoveOn will also protest against Fox News in front of General Motors’ headquarters, the Miami and Connecticut offices of Subway and AT&T headquarters in Dallas.

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.