Behind The Scenes

Inside the Upfront

Michelle Beadle and Scott Van Pelt served as hosts at the 2011 Upfront

Editor’s note: Amy Phillips, ESPN’s Senior Director, Communications, supports the Ad Sales team that oversees the Upfront presentation and manages the publicity surrounding the event. Here’s her recap:

NEW YORK — This is the fourth year I have been involved with our Upfront show, a yearly presentation to the advertising community and press to preview programming (and, ideally, sell ads) for the coming year.

ESPN was the first cable network to hold an Upfront presentation during what had traditionally been “broadcast week,” reserved for the big four networks.

Since ESPN broke with tradition a few years ago, several other cable networks have followed, making this one of the industry’s busiest weeks of the year. Between presentations and parties, it can wear out even the heartiest of ad buyers and media planners.

ESPN’s presentation is traditionally held in the morning, and yesterday we couldn’t have asked for more unpleasant weather. Rain was coming down in sheets, but — fortunately — people still turned out in droves to the Best Buy Theater in Times Square to hear about our wares.

Doors opened around 8:30 and shortly thereafter the lobby was packed with people in business suits mingling with the likes of beloved Jets fan Fireman Ed, the famed Laker Girls and ESPN talent like Hannah Storm, Jesse Palmer and Kenny Mayne.

Clay Matthews taught us about the new male shopper.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an ESPN event without a couple mascots in the mix. Both the Oregon Duck and Jonathan, the UConn Husky, posed for photos as people waited for the show to begin.

Backstage in the greenrooms, action sports icon Tony Hawk and Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews chatted with Disney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN President George Bodenheimer.

Saturday Night Live head writer and ESPYs host Seth Meyers joined the mix shortly before the show started. Meyers even agreed to have his photo taken with Matthews — a big ask, considering Meyers is a diehard Steelers fan.

The show began at 9:30 a.m. A lot of ground was covered during the presentation — from two new afternoon shows that will air on ESPN2, Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable and Numbers Don’t Lie, to previews of the upcoming college football season and, of course, mention of the current NFL labor situation.

In the words of Executive Vice President of Content John Skipper, regarding the NFL: “They’re gonna play, and when they do, we’ll show it on Monday Night [Football].”

The highlights for me personally were Meyers’ ESPYs segment; the preview of women’s soccer documentaries HERoics, which will air as part of ESPN’s Women’s World Cup coverage; and the next series of documentaries from ESPN Films.

And I enjoyed Kenny Mayne’s introduction of his series Wider World Of Sports.

The ESPN presentation lasted a little more than an hour. The feeling of relief among those responsible for its writing, production and execution was palpable.

Mounting a show like this takes countless hours of planning and lots of last-minute scrambling.

But it’s a great project to be a part of, and when it comes together as it did yesterday, it makes all that hard work worth it.

Want to learn more about Upfronts?   click here

To see the Upfront click here.  You’ll be required to regster prior to viewing.

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