TV & Streaming

Disney touts celebs, sports, and stories during its 2024 upfront

The presentation at the Javits Center was packed with actors, athletes, trailers, and announcements, after only a couple of executives took the stage.
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Disney

· 4 min read

Upfronts are typically star-studded events, but Disney’s was more like a two-hour red carpet.

The House of Mouse’s annual presentation on Tuesday afternoon at the Javits Center featured A-listers from the big screen, small screen, and sports screen, with hardly any executives.

After an Abbott Elementary-themed video kicked off the presentation, Emma Stone took to the stage to introduce Disney CEO Bob Iger, who made his first onstage upfront appearance since he was head of ABC Entertainment in 1994. Iger emphasized Disney’s storytelling capabilities, talent roster, and content library before passing the mic to an animated version of Rita Ferro, Disney’s president of global ad sales, an animated form of whom appeared in a clip of Family Guy ahead of her in-person remarks.

While Iger acknowledged some of the other execs who might normally speak at an upfront, and Ferro hit on Disney’s ad-tech highlights, after about 15 minutes, the remainder of the presentation was all about celebrity. The goal, Ferro told Marketing Brew ahead of the event, was to amp up the star power, content, and announcements in order to put Disney’s storytelling front and center.

“When you have all of this video supply in the marketplace, what makes Disney different is the quality of the storytelling and the connection we have with our fans that ultimately, for brands on the platform, pays off in ways that are different than just ‘an impression is an impression,’” she told us.

Here’s what else we took away from Disney’s 2024 upfront:

Trailer talk: As usual, Disney spent a fair amount of time releasing trailers from its various studios. From Lucasfilm, the audience got a look at The Acolyte, while Marvel Studios dropped trailers for Agatha All Along, Ironheart, and Daredevil: Born Again, all of which were introduced by leading cast members.

On the Hulu side, there were trailers for upcoming seasons of Only Murders in the Building and The Bear, also introduced by respective cast members, and Jim Gaffigan announced that Hulu would break into stand-up comedy specials under the banner “Hulu’s Laughing Now,” which is set to debut in November with Gaffigan as the inaugural comic to host a special. Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen, via video, revealed that Road Diary: Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, a project he described as “part documentary, part concert film,” will hit both Hulu and Disney+ in October.

Sports center: ESPN had its moment in the sun, with talent from athletes to coaches to broadcasters. Among them was recently retired Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, who’s joining the network’s Monday Night Countdown NFL pregame show in the fall—and who was a major score for ESPN, as he was reportedly being courted by other networks as well.

  • ESPN also announced that Golden State Warriors point guard Chris Paul will join NBA Countdown during the Eastern Conference Finals as a guest analyst.
  • Dawn Staley, Hall of Famer and coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s team, joined the ESPN women’s college basketball studio team onstage to plug Tuesday’s WNBA tip-off and the women’s game in general, calling it a “no-lose situation” for brands.
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“We have the best live sports rights portfolio in the market, and I think that is an important point to hit on,” Ferro told us ahead of the event. “Live sports rights is what engages the fan in a way that nothing else in our sports portfolio does.”

Rated R: For those who don’t yet know, Disney is no longer just for kids, and its upfront was no exception. Ryan Reynolds joked that his upcoming film Deadpool & Wolverine, the first R-rated movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is “perfectly brand-safe” for advertisers as long as they’re okay with “testicular trauma and cocaine content.”

When Jimmy Kimmel closed out with his traditional Disney upfront roast after two years off due to Covid and the writers’ strike, he followed in Reynolds’s footsteps, joking about whether Ferro has done cocaine. At one point, Kimmel asked newly announced Golden Bachelorette star Joan Vassos if “the kids [are] ready to see grandma get raw-dogged in a jacuzzi,” then pitched a spinoff called The Golden Retriever, complete with a trailer featuring dogs doing what they do best: humping everything in sight.

We don’t even want to know what happened at the afterparty.

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