AMC and A+E Networks recently canceled their live upfront events due to concerns about the novel coronavirus, marking two additions to the growing heap of entertainment industry events that have been disrupted by the virus.
The two networks are among the first media companies to cancel their upfront events due to the coronavirus. Upfront events, which are part of the entertainment industry’s annual ad-sales market, are a key part of TV networks’ profitability. Networks use the events, which often cost millions of dollars and help boost awareness about a given network’s future programming, to woo potential advertisers. While AMC and A+E Networks’ have canceled their live ad-buying events, their cancellations do not necessarily indicate the start of a trend.
IndieWire reached out to representatives at seven major television networks and companies regarding their upfront plans. Although they declined to speak on the record, most sources told IndieWire their upfront events were still expected to proceed as scheduled and none of them said they were planning on canceling outright.
May typically marks an especially busy period for upfront events from networks including NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, Fox Corp., Walt Disney, WarnerMedia, Discovery, and the CW. It’s possible that networks may take a wait-and-see approach to determine if coronavirus worries abate by then.
That said, it’s also possible that more television networks and companies will cancel such events in the coming weeks. Concern about the coronavirus continues to grow and major events are being cancelled or postponed with increasing frequency. SXSW, MipTV, and the Bentonville Film Festival are among the handful of television industry events that have already been canceled. Several American universities have canceled classes, a number of major businesses have allowed or ordered employees to begin working from home, and Italy is on a nationwide lockdown.
While the AMC and A+E Networks’ live upfront events aren’t happening, their cancellations do not mean the networks will not be able to attract advertisers during the industry’s annual marketing blitz. Upfront events are often streamed online; A+E Networks will reportedly host virtual discussions with clients in March, while AMC Networks will facilitate “individual conversations” with its advertising clients, according to Variety.
The coronavirus has also impacted television production: Disney halted shooting of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” in Prague on Tuesday and recalled the upcoming Disney+ show’s staff to Atlanta, while CBS put “The Amazing Race’ Season 33’s production on hold due to the coronavirus. Disney also cancelled its two-day European press launch event for Disney+, while Quibi axed its red carpet launch event in Los Angeles.