Every May, the five networks — NBC, ABC, CBS, CW, and Fox — premiere their fall schedules to advertisers. (This year's upfronts start Monday at Radio City Music Hall.) Usually a nonstop, star-studded drinks fest, this upfront week looks to be a party season of cost-cutting and cutbacks. After a huge party last year that packed Gustavino's, Fox is moving its upfront to a smaller venue and, this year, says the company, is all about "getting info into the hands of advertisers." ABC, after a crush of paparazzi jostled the Desperate Housewives last year, is trimming both access to the red carpet and invites. "I just about expect people to start scalping," says ABC spokeswoman Susan Sewell. And, instead of hiring superstar entertainers, expect more American Idols and a possible Hugh Jackman rumba — he’s the exec producer of CBS’s pilot Viva Laughlin.
Chad Kaydo, editor-in-chief of Bizbash Media, a Website that covers the events-planning industry, claims that networks are cutting back because "so many other outfits were glomming onto upfront week and infringing on the networks." Not only was security becoming an issue, but, Kaydo noted, "all the shrimp cocktails were blurring together."
At the upfronts, the nets will reveal the fate of “on the bubble shows” in the middle of the viewer rankings, among them CW’s Veronica Mars and CBS's The Unit. But the one with the most suspense for New Yorkers is Law & Order. (Law & Order: SVU has already been renewed.) The drama, now in its seventeenth season, had seen ratings slide to about 9 million in a move to Friday nights. Industry trades predict the flagship of the "donk-donk" franchise will return to the air — but it may be on TNT. —Alexandra Peers