With Its Nascent Ad Business Making Strides, Netflix Schedules Its First In-Person Upfront Event In New York

A bit more than a year into selling advertising, Netflix is setting plans for its debut in the upfronts, the annual springtime showcase in New York for ad buyers and sellers.

The streaming giant will hold what it is calling a “first-look presentation,” hosted by senior executives, on the afternoon of May 15. On the following day, a set of activations dubbed “The Netflix Experience” will be open to advertisers at New York’s Pier59 Studios.

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The original plan had been for Netflix to host an upfront in May 2023 at the Paris Theatre, which it operates. As the WGA strike cast a shadow over the industry in the runup to the upfronts, companies made a range of adjustments to their presentations and Netflix shifted to a virtual event.

This year, with both labor and Covid threats diminished, several top ad sellers have already announced plans for presentations in mid-May, the traditional home carved out decades ago by broadcasters. NBCUniversal, YouTube and Warner Bros. Discovery have all confirmed pitches during the week of May 13, while Paramount Global has said it plans to continue engaging clients in a more targeted way, as it began doing in 2023. Paramount-owned CBS was long known for convening the poster child for broadcast TV upfront week, a major gathering at Carnegie Hall, followed by a packed after-party.

The “experiences” hook for Netflix fits with its increasing efforts to mount events connected to top originals like Bridgerton and Stranger Things. Other verticals to be represented at the New York upfront will be Netflix Bites for food-related programming and Netflix is a Joke, a comedy sub-brand.

Netflix officially launched its cheaper subscription tier with ads in November 2022. By the end of 2023, it had reached 23 million monthly active users and was credited with helping the company add nearly 30 million subscribers over the past year. (The company does not break out subscriptions by tier.)

Speaking to Wall Street analysts on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call, Co-CEO Greg Peters said the company is “focused on the long-term revenue potential here. We’re very optimistic about it. It’s a huge opportunity, $180 billion of ad spend ex-China and -Russia, $25 billion alone on Connected TV. We know ad dollars follow engagement. We’ve got the most engaged audience. So we believe we’re well positioned to capture some of that ad spend that shifts from linear to streaming.”

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