Netflix’s First Upfront Opened with a Dig at ‘Max’

Netflix’s first-ever upfront got bullied a bit by the writers guild and canceled its in-person plans. During the revamped presentation — a pre-recorded livestream — it proved that Netflix isn’t above picking on someone (almost) its own size.

As part of his opening remarks, new-ish Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters pointed out that “despite all the competition out there, Netflix is the most popular streaming service today.” He added: “To be the one to watch, you need everyone watching. And that’s what sets Netflix apart.”

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We see what you did there. Peters was not wrong, but more importantly “the one to watch” is the tagline for Warner Bros. Discovery’s new streaming service combining HBO Max and Discovery+. It was a phrase we heard a few times this morning at WBD’s own upfront, which was in person (but had its own problems).

“The one to watch” was first shoved down our throats on April 12, when Warner Bros. Discovery announced Max. We’ve got the transcript: Between president & CEO David Zaslav and WBD’s streaming boss JB Perrette, they repeated the tagline exactly a dozen times.

Zaslav got first crack. “Max is the one to watch,” he said. “It’s the one to watch because it’s the place where every member of the household can go to see exactly what they want at any given time.”

“It’s the one to watch because we have so many of the world’s most iconic and globally recognized franchises,” Zaslav, who did not participate in the 2023 upfront presentation to advertisers, continued. “Max is the one to watch because we have the largest TV library in the world.”

On and on it went, but you get it by now. If you don’t, here’s the official Max promo as unveiled more than a month ago:

Netflix needed to make the case that it’s the one to watch when it comes to people willing to watch ads. Jeremi Gorman, Netflix’s president of worldwide advertising, said that Netflix has “nearly five million global monthly active users, with a median age of 34,” just six months into the launch of the ad-supported tier. Peters added that a quarter of the streamer’s new signups are turning to the ad tier in those countries where it’s available, and 70 percent of those new subs are between the ages of 18-49.

Netflix used its upfront presentation to trot out some of the features now available to advertisers, such as being able to guarantee your ads are shown within Top 10 shows or movies, that you can sponsor shows or movies before the title begins, or you can even tie your company’s name to different Netflix collections or campaigns, such as a holiday or event.

Some of the returning shows touted during the presentation included the announcement of “Ginny and Georgia” coming back for seasons three and four and “Virgin River” coming back for season six, as well as a look at new shows like Shawn Levy’s “All the Light We Cannot See,” “Griselda” with Sofía Vergara, and David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ “The Three-Body Problem.”

“We share a common goal, which is building connection. You want to connect consumers with your amazing brands. And we want to connect them with amazing entertainment they’ll love,” Peters said. “For our members, it all starts with the variety and quality of our TV shows and films.  So whatever your taste, whatever mood you’re in, whoever you’re with — we’ll have something great for you to watch. From Emmy-winning dramas to reality TV, stand-up comedy to true crime, Oscar winners to action-adventure, rom-com to horror, we have it all.” Netflix users can get in the door with ads for $6.99/month.

WBD’s new combined platform Max launches next week on May 23 with its own ad-supported tier offered to consumers at $9.99/month. That service will feature HBO shows, other Warner Bros. movies, and a plethora of Discovery content. WBD also used its presentation this morning to announce a new Food Network show with Selena Gomez, an All Elite Wrestling (AEW) show for Saturdays on TNT, an ID true-crime series executive produced by Michael Bay, a Conan O’Brien international travel series for Max, and a “Joe Schmo Show” reboot at TBS.

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