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Paramount Won’t Return to TV’s Upfront Week in New York

Paramount Global doesn’t feel it needs Carnegie Hall to make its point to Madison Avenue.

The New York owner of CBS, the Paramount movie studio and the Nickelodeon kids-cable outlet plans a second year of individual meetings with media buyers and advertisers for its outreach during the industry’s “upfront” sales market, and will not return to the more formal, glitzy presentation that has long been a staple of the period.

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Paramount intends to start the meetings, to be held in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, in late April, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company feels clients responded well to the technique and expects to build upon the practice with a new experience for those who attend.

In a different era, Paramount was a backer of what was perhaps the most symbolic presentation of the upfront, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory ahead of their next programming cycle. In its time, CBS’ Carnegie Hall event grew to symbolize the networks’ efforts during their annual week of publicity aimed at wooing Madison Avenue and has featured everything from live songs by The Who to a farewell from David Letterman.

But John Halley, who was named head of Paramount Global’s ad sales outreach last year, believes bespoke meetings carry the potential for more benefit, especially in an era when advertisers are seeking more precise placement of their pitches alongside narrower audiences defined by better data mining techniques. “We are not going to go back to the old way of doing things,” Halley told Variety in May of last year.

Paramount is, like many of its rivals, grappling with downturns in the flow of traditional ad dollars to linear TV networks, the media assets that continue to generate the bulk of media revenue, even in the age of streaming. Many competitors seem poised to return to their big upfront gatherings. Warner Bros. Discovery has already called for a big presentation in mid May.

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