Apr 25, 2024

Introducing The ‘Way Upfronts’: Producer Michael Sugar And A Roster Of Hollywood Talent Set Out To Engage Brands In A New Marketplace

In early May, sandwiched between the NewFronts and the traditional broadcast (and now streaming) upfronts, a new showcase for pitches to major advertisers will make its debut.

Billed as The Way Upfronts, the series of virtual presentations slated for May 7 and 8 is a hybrid of the annual springtime spectacles of ad-supported television and the supercharged energy of a festival marketplace. Plans call for making them quarterly, in-person events, with next month’s launch edition meant to increase visibility at a time when talent will already be making the rounds and fully emerging from a strike-impaired 2023.

Oscar-winning producer and manager Michael Sugar‘s company, Sugar23, is leading the new initiative, which has secured attendance from brands representing some $120 billion in spending. Those Madison Avenue dollars are drawn to the talent in the Zoom. While organizers have not shared the names of presenters to the public, the host committee for the event includes Scarlett Johansson, Colin Jost, John Legend, Tom Brady, Elizabeth Banks and Steven Soderbergh.

There will be 20 slots for presenters, with a roster of top producers and stars pitching films, TV shows, documentaries and books, most in early development stages.

Sugar’s credits include the Oscar-winning Spotlight as well as notable series like 13 Reasons Why and The Knick. Sugar23 already has made considerable inroads over the years in its efforts to work with top brands.

In an interview with Deadline, Sugar said the aim is to create a new paradigm allowing for easier connections between talent and advertisers. “It’s closer to the way Hollywood pitches on a daily basis,” he said. “Pitches, sizzle reels, ideas, packaged scripts, whatever. What we’re creating is a marketplace. What I believe will happen is we will sell some shows. … I have seen what’s coming, and it is good.”

The new marketplace will ideally be beneficial to all stakeholders, Sugar said.

“We want distributors to win,” he said. “That’s key. We want the studios to win, we want the talent to win, we want the brands to win. We want every leg of the stool to win here. What we want to do is to augment the opportunity flow for everyone by bringing trillions of dollars that are spent on media and marketing into a new medium to spend it on.”

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