What does the 'new normal' for network TV look like on ABC?

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Industries across America face challenges posed by the pandemic, and the nation's TV networks are no exception. With so many of us largely confined to our homes, there is also opportunity -- but viewers, networks, and advertisers must all adjust to a new normal.

The annual "Upfront Presentation" has become a longstanding tradition in the TV business: lavish events given by broadcast and cable TV networks for advertisers who buy billions of dollars worth of commercials upfront, long before the new shows air.

But this year, production came to a standstill during the pandemic, and big gatherings are not possible.

"The challenge is not being able to do it in person and spend the quality time that happens before, during, and after these presentations," said Rita Fero, president of advertising dales for all of the Disney networks.

In all of her years of experience, she said she never could have imagined selling a schedule this way.

"This has been unbelievable and unimaginable," she said.

She's been forced to innovate, and it's a challenge she readily accepted.

"Teams will elevate, and when you have to find a solution, there are many great ways to do things differently and frankly better," she said.

Fero and her team developed a series of virtual presentations.
"You have to be thoughtful about tone, and yet, people are looking for an escape," she said.

Fero believes this quarantine period will hasten changes coming to the TV industry.

"I think we've realized that we can produce differently," she said. "We can develop differently. We can watch differently."

According to Fero, so many of us are watching much more. .

"You see it across the board all the time on social media, right?" she said. "How many people say, 'You gotta watch this show' or 'Oh my God, did you watch the ending of that show?'"

Shows like "Live With Kelly and Ryan" have a bigger audience now, offering hope that TV will not just survive, but emerge from this difficult period alive and well.


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