WarnerMedia and Xandr Scrap Joint Upfront Event in May Due to Coronavirus Spread

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AT&T is the third media company today to pull the plug on its upfronts week presentation in May, opting to go digital-only as yet another upfront presentation is canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The combined WarnerMedia/Xandr upfront, which was set for May 13 in New York’s Hulu Theater at MSG, has been scrapped.

“The health and safety of the advertising community, our employees and production partners is our absolute priority, so we will alter our plans for this year’s Upfront presentation,” said Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer of WarnerMedia, and Kirk McDonald, chief business officer at Xandr, in a joint statement. “We have the technological and creative means to showcase our unified WarnerMedia/Xandr message through a unique video experience and will do just that on May 13.”

This would have been the first joint presentation for the sibling companies, which held separate events last May but joined forces for this year’s upfront.

Both companies are entering the upfront with major leadership vacancies. Xandr CEO Brian Lesser stepped down unexpectedly on Wednesday, while WarnerMedia has yet to fill the ad sales position that has been open since Donna Speciale exited last July.

Earlier today, both ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal canceled their upfront week events, also opting for digital-only presentations, though NBCUniversal said it will also televise its presentation.

Until today, no media companies had scrapped their plans for May’s upfronts week, the biggest week of upfront season, in which buyers and clients from across the country descend on New York for a week of presentations, cocktail parties and meetings about the coming TV season.

Previously, almost every March upfront event was canceled due to concerns over the epidemic-turned-pandemic, including presentations from AMC Networks and A+E Networks. Only CNN was able to hold its upfront event, CNN Experience, but the coronavirus was the elephant in the room.

On Wednesday, the Interactive Advertising Bureau announced a streaming option for next month’s NewFronts events, with several presenters already indicating they will move to digital-only presentations, including YouTube, Meredith and Twitter. Vudu, meanwhile, has dropped out of the NewFronts entirely.

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