Fox And NBCUniversal Upfronts Presenters Take Digs At Netflix And Disney “Paywall”

In today’s traditional doubleheader opening of the upfronts in New York, Fox and NBCUniversal execs took digs at the “paywall” strategy of Netflix and Disney, in the first of many salvos expected this week.

Kicking off Fox’s mostly virtual event, ad sales chief Marianne Gambelli took note of the industry’s shift to subscription streaming in recent years. “Everybody is chasing subscribers” except for Fox, she marveled. Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks took it a step further, telling the ad-buying audience, “”We know that without you, we would just be Netflix.”

Entertainment chief Charlie Collier built on those comments in his concluding segment. “Now, Netflix and Disney are coming” to ad-supported streaming, he said. “And what that means is that they can’t afford to build their paywall without your money.”

Fox, as Collier and other execs repeated throughout the presentation, emphasizes free and ad-supported programming (though the afternoon did feature a brief plug for pay streamer Fox Nation).

The NBCUniversal upfront at Radio City featured several shoutouts to Peacock, which also came in for some ribbing from late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers. NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said Netflix and Disney entering the ad-supported streaming game should be seen as an affirmation of his company’s strategy.

“We’ve been committed to the ad supported video business since literally the first moments of our company’s history,” he said. “This is not an extension of our core business or a pivot. It is our core business.” 

“Comcast NBCUniversal isn’t some new Philly start-up or adolescent ad-tech company or the latest messy merger,” NBCU ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino said, the last poke possibly aimed at Warner Bros Discovery.

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