Tuesday is the highly anticipated annual ESPN Upfront at the Best Buy Theater in New York City, hosted by SportsCenter anchors Neil Everett and Stan Verrett. As several departments across the company prepare to present some of the network’s programming plans for 2013-14, Front Row spoke with Mark Baltazar, CEO and Managing Partner of Broadstreet, who has produced seven upfronts for ESPN (beginning with the famous “ESPN the Musical”). Baltazar shared some of the details of creating an upfront as well as what to expect from this year’s show.
How different is ESPN’s upfront than the ones from other networks?
The biggest differentiator is that everything we say, show and display is done with the audience in mind. Our lens is the customer sitting in the audience or watching the webcast. Many other upfronts are filled with stuff that the presenters feel is important but the ad community could care less about. Broadstreet conducts an anonymous survey every year with the ad buying community and every year ESPN is called out as one of the best upfront presentations. There is no smarter, strategic and passionate sales and marketing team than the one at ESPN. The ESPN team tasked with developing and producing the upfront is truly committed to putting up the best upfront presentation in the industry and it shows every year.
What are the biggest challenges in developing an event like this?
One of the biggest challenges is keeping it fresh, entertaining and relevant for the audience. Another challenge is finding additional places for folks to sit as the ESPN upfront has become one of the hottest tickets during the week. And then there’s [ESPN commentator] Kenny Mayne. . . Seriously, he always has a lot of crazy stuff but we gladly do whatever it takes to get it done because he’s funny, creative, an audience favorite and a really good guy.
What should viewers and attendees expect from this year’s event?
Lots of big announcements with games, SportsCenter and innovation. We have some great sports talent participating this year and many first timers from ESPN’s stable of talent. We also have a bit of an animal theme running through the show.