Disney Cancels Upfront and Hulu’s NewFront, As Entire Upfronts Week Goes Digital-Only

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At the start of Thursday morning, every major event planned for upfronts week in May was still going forward. Now, they’ve all been canceled in response to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney said Thursday night that it was pulling the plug on its May 12 upfront presentation at New York’s Lincoln Center, as well as Hulu’s NewFronts event on May 6, scheduled for the Hulu Theater at MSG.

“In light of recent events, and for the safety of our staff, talent, clients and partners, Disney Advertising Sales is reinventing both its Hulu Newfront and TWDC upfront presentations,” said a Disney advertising sales spokeswoman. “Production plans are already underway to develop two star-studded and innovative streaming events, showcasing the breadth and depth of Disney’s rich portfolio and infrastructure. We are committed to redefining how we bring clients the best storytelling and advertising opportunities. A more detailed announcement of alternative presentation plans will be forthcoming.”

The news capped a day in which one by one, media companies announced they were throwing in the towel on their upfronts week events, and shifting to digital-only presentations.

First, ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal said they were canceling their presentations, followed a few hours later by news that WarnerMedia/Xandr, The CW, Discovery and Fox had pulled the plug as well.

The only remaining event still on the schedule for upfronts week is Univision, though that presentation isn’t on the same massive scale as the other media companies who participate in the week.

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—and now Hulu, with tonight’s announcement. Vudu, meanwhile, has dropped out of the NewFronts entirely.

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