The Only 5 Takeaways From Disney’s UpFront That Anyone Will Care About

”There’s STILL upfronts?” Our thoughts exactly at LAMag, but its still our duty to report relevant TV news
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Day two of the network UpFronts and Tuesday was all about Disney. This was the first time the company attended the presentation as a unified front, presenting itself as a formidable entertainment hub for fans of all types – yes, that includes all you Obi-Wan and She-Hulk stans out there.

But the day wasn’t just about the genre releases that appeal to those fandoms. This UpFront was about Disney claiming victory as if the streaming wars had been won. And sure, Netflix has been in a tough spot in recent months, prompting Jimmy Kimmel to toss an F-bomb their way during his performance (which was remote, thanks to his most recent COVID diagnosis) during the event.

Is Disney the top dog, now? Even after the company’s reputation received a few dings earlier this year, it seems that way. But that’s our answer today. Who knows what will happen tomorrow. The TV industry is weird, that way. Anyway…

Here are 5 takeaways from Disney’s network upfront presentation:

The Mouse House’s big flex

Disney CEO Bob Chapek began Disney’s UpFront by telling the packed crowd of advertisers that the company is “the most powerful force in the industry.” Those are big words coming from the Mouse House, which began the year struggling to find its footing over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But, “the most enduring and beloved name in entertainment,” as he called it, has proven its worth.

This is the first time Disney has attended the UpFronts as a unified brand, and their grand portfolio Disney+, Disney films, Disney parks, ESPN, Hulu, FX, and ABC – were all represented in some fashion. The news that Disney+ will be offering a less-expensive ad-supported tier led to eager attendees wanting to know more. They got a brief tease, which will have to hold them over.

That’s beside the point, though. After Disney’s big purchase of the brands mentioned above, and the continued interconnectedness of the Marvel and Star Wars content on the small screen with the big tent-pole theatrical releases, it’s clear the company has much to celebrate. Even if they are sounding a bit cocky.

ABC thinks Chris Rock hosting next year’s Oscars could be cool.

According to ABC exec Craig Erwich, this was a “really successful year” for the Academy Awards. The Oscars ceremony featured three talented women as co-hosts Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, and Regina Hall. Coda was the big winner of the night, receiving Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor trophies. Troy Kotsur made history as the first Deaf male actor to win an Oscar, and Apple TV+ became the first streaming service to be honored with the coveted Best Picture title.

That’s all cool, but no one was really talking about any of it on the big night. Which brings us to Chris Rock. After the celebrated comedian delivered a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, husband Will Smith hit the stage to slap Rock in the face. It was an event that dominated social media and the news cycle for days to come. Rock ended up refusing to press charges for assault. Smith resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

According to Erwich, the show attracted a noteworthy 16.6 million viewers. And ABC is apparently open to Rock as host of the ceremony next year. It’s still too early to tell if he’ll accept, but if he does, how many slap jokes do you think is possible to cram in those three hours of live television?

Loki is the most-watched Marvel series on Disney+

Kevin Feige took the UpFront stage to bring some MCU goodies to the masses. If you wanted to know what has (so far) been the most-watched Marvel series on the streamer, we’ve got one word for you: Loki. The Marvel chief called the Thor/Avengers spinoff series a “bold swing” for the platform. Honestly, you could put Tom Hiddleston in that black wig and have him watch paint dry for six episodes, and the audiences would come flocking.

So, season 2? It’s coming. Feige announced during the presentation that Disney+ has ordered Loki for a sophomore run. The series will go picture up in a few weeks with Hiddleston and the entire cast (Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino, Wunmi Mosaku, and Richard E. Grant) returning.

From Orphan Black to lawyer green, here comes Tatiana Maslany’s She-Hulk.

It feels like we’ve been waiting quite a while for the She-Hulk details to emerge and Feige premiered a trailer for the upcoming series, along with the official name for the show: She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. The nine-episode series, which is set to premiere on Wednesday, August 17, follows Jennifer Walters (played by Orphan Black‘s Maslany), as she traverses life as a single, 30-something lawyer who also has the ability to transform into a 6-foot-7-inch hulk. Joining Maslany in the series is Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/the Abomination, and Benedict Wong reprises his role as Wong.

Move over Marvel, ESPN is in the building

Disney brought in all sorts of big guns for their two-hour presentation, and can you guess which brand got the most time? That’s right, ESPN. Sports is big business for the company and considering the company’s current bundle offer of ESPN, Hulu, and Disney+, the move to shine a light on their sports tier makes complete sense. The NHL just scored a deal with the brand; the SEC is now bringing college sports to the channel; Dwayne Johnson appeared at the presentation to announce the multi-year deal the XFL (which he’s a co-owner of) has signed with ESPN, FX, and ABC.

“We have entered into an exclusive multi-year deal with our partners with Walt Disney to produce and distribute all of our games,” Johnson revealed to advertisers. The XFL games are to kick off (pun totally intended) in 2023, with the deal lasting through 2027.

This means viewers will get 40 regular-season games, two playoffs, and one championship. These events will be featured on a combination of ABC, ESPN networks, and FX – which is noteworthy since the cable channel has shied away from sports content until now. 

If anyone has been on-the-fence about Disney’s influence as a self-identified entertainment juggernaut, these deals are just three more examples of how the company is leveling the playing field (pun intended, again) while putting them on competitive footing against networks like Fox and NBC, who both are offering substantial football-themed programming this fall.


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