Upfronts Download: HBO Max shares new details on ad tier, CBS relies on acronyms

Welcome to Upfronts Download, Ad Age’s special pop-up TV upfronts roundup where we bring you breaking news and some of the best (and worst) of TV’s (virtual) dog-and-pony show, curated by Jeanine Poggi, assistant managing editor. 

The usual fan fair of the upfronts is certainly more muted as once again we watch presentations from our home offices and dining room tables. On this last day of the upfronts, I am working from the dead zone in my house to recreate the experience of having no wifi in Carnegie Hall and frantically trying to tweet pictures of whatever get-up CBS’ JoAnn Ross came on stage wearing.Business as usual?

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar kicked off the company’s upfront presentation by assuring advertisers things will be business as usual in the upfronts despite the news this week that the company would be combined with Discovery in a mega-deal.

“Ours is a rapidly evolving industry and we are transforming with it,” Kilar said. “Together we will form a new company, super-serving our advertisers with a promise to unite WarnerMedia brands with Discovery brands, all under one banner.”

Of course, for Kilar, the future remains uncertain, as Discovery CEO David Zaslav has been tapped to lead the combined entity.HBO Max comes to TV

In an effort to drive awareness and sampling for HBO Max, WarnerMedia is bringing some of the originals from the streaming platform to TBS and TNT. Dubbed “Front Row,” these programs will air with limited commercials. Of course, WarnerMedia predecessor Turner has been touting lighter commercial loads on TV since at least 2015, when it said primetime originals on truTV would run with just 10 minutes of commercial time per hour. But, ultimately, it was a challenge to get the math on those efforts to add up.Update on Max

WarnerMedia also provided some new details on the ad experience for HBO Max’s ad-supported tier. Kilar called the upcoming ad experience “elegant,” and the company hinted to new ad products like the ubiquitous “pause” ads that have become a mainstay of other streaming platforms; “branded discovery,” which allows brands to surround the content discovery process as consumers explore HBO Max recommended programming; and “brand block,” where brands own a block of content.  There will be no more than four minutes of ads per hour with many shows, including HBO originals, airing with no ads. The highly anticipated “Friends” reunion will run with commercials. The ad-supported tier, which will debut next month, will cost $9.99 per month.I’ll be there for you

Speaking of the return of our favorite group of friends, WarnerMedia unveiled new details regarding the special, which will debut on May 27. Stars David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc appeared via videoconference to talk up the reunion, which will include the return of the iconic apartment set, readings of some classic lines from old scripts, and special guest appearances from stars like Tom Selleck. Watch the trailer here.How is the TV industry responding to the streaming wars? On May 24 and May 25 hear from ad sales leaders, agency executives and top brands on the state of the TV ad marketplace and how streaming is poised to reinvent the $20 billion upfront marketplace. RSVP here.Betting on acronyms

CBS will lean on the tried and true in the fall with new versions of “CSI,” “FBI” and “NCIS,” as it looks to drive viewership with shows that already have a built-in audience.

The Eye network will add “NCIS: Hawaii,” starring Vanessa Lachey; “CSI: Vegas,” a sequel to the original show; and “FBI: International,” which follows the FBI’s International Fly team, to its fall lineup.

CBS’ move to double down on these franchises comes as attention is shifting to streaming platforms, including its own Paramount+. By adding shows that are familiar to both consumers and advertisers, the hope is to keep loyalists tuning in to linear TV in some fashion. Endless teasers

I spent at least an hour of my day today watching what felt like a loop of content jumble. Both WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS opened their virtual presentations with incredibly long skits that tried to cram in nearly every program and high-profile talent (human and otherwise) in an attempt to show just how deep their portfolios stretch. While I will take all the Leslie Odom Jr. I can get, these celebrity mashups went on far too long, making the hodgepodge of content practically indistinguishable.Super Bowl in Spanish

For the first time, the Super Bowl will air on a Spanish-language broadcast network. NBCUniversal-owned Telemundo will air the Big Game on its sports network, Telemundo Deportes, in 2022. As part of the deal with the NFL, the network will also air “Sunday Night Football” for the next 13 seasons.That does it for Upfronts Download—thanks for reading.

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