Netflix New Kids Get Kicked Around at TV Advertising Upfronts

For years, the streaming colossus thought it was above advertising, so the rest of the TV world stuck it to the company while it’s down

At the TV Upfronts in New York—where networks make their annual pilgrimage to woo advertisers to their fall lineups—Netflix was roasted like a stuck pig by presenters for its recent decision to get into the ad-supported television game.

After a miserable April earnings call, the streaming behemoth announced it would introduce a less pricey tier for customers who don’t mind commercials, and the feeling in the ad-driven crowd was that the cool kids were now relegated to the band table as comeuppance for years of thinking it was too classy for crass Madison Avenue, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Some companies just haven’t been able to keep up with your needs,” said Linda Yaccarino, chair of global advertising and partnerships for NBCUniversal, starting off the festivities at Radio City Music Hall. “At those companies, advertising could seem like an afterthought, or even worse, a new idea for a revenue stream.”

Some had even stronger words.

“I have to admit, after those smug bastards choked the life out of us for years, and it feels really good to see them stoop to selling advertising,” late-nighter Jimmy Kimmel said at Disney’s upfront. “Everybody loves Bridgerton. How much do you think they’ll love it when it’s interrupted by a Nurtec commercial every four minutes, you zillion-dollar dicks?”

Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks said in a message to another crowd of buyers, “Without you we would just be Netflix. We love selling pizzas, and phones, and insurance… Will Netflix really love it too?”

It’s hardly any wonder the Netflix kids took a beating. Even when their CEO Reed Hastings explained the company’s pivot to advertising on that April earnings call, one had to listen hard to hear any trace of enthusiasm.

“Those who have followed Netflix know that I have been against the complexity of advertising, and a big fan of the simplicity of subscription,” he said. “But as much as I am a fan of that, I am a bigger fan of consumer choice. And allowing consumers who would like to have a lower price, and are advertising-tolerant, get what they want, makes a lot of sense.”

NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell, for one, didn’t sound like he finds Netflix’s late arrival to his territory amusing at all, THR reports: “We have been committed to the ad-supported video business since literally the first moments of our company’s history. This is not an extension of our core business, or a pivot, it is our core business.”

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