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Disney Celebrates Vast Network Portfolio at Lincoln Center


Kevin Mayer, Disney chairman, direct-to-consumer and international, kicked things off at the Disney upfront, celebrating the various networks joined under the Disney banner, and Disney's takeover of Hulu. The power of the advertising portfolio we have put together might be the most exciting thing of all, he said.

The networks represented in the Disney upfront include ABC, FX, Freeform, National Geographic and ESPN.

Rita Ferro, president of ad sales and partnerships, was out next. She spoke of One event, one team, all the best brands in media, and noted that this powerful portfolio tells stories like no other.

Related: ABC Shares Fall Shows

She plugged the most powerful brands in local media in the ABC-owned stations, and said Disney harbors the best storytellers in the business.

The future of TV is TV, she said.

ESPN took its turn, as Scott Van Pelt of SportsCenter stepped on stage. We are what we have been for decades, the place of record for sports fans, he said.

He shared the strategy of Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN president and co-chair, Disney Media Networks: Expanding the audience, innovating and quality storytelling. It will always be what we do best, he said of the latter.

He mentioned The Last Dance, a 10-episode look at the Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan era.

Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants spoke about their experience in the NFL. Barkley said he was learning leadership from Manning.

Reporter Laura Rutledge spoke about college football, and the networks kickoff match August 24, Florida versus Miami. She said the network has made halftime a must-see moment.

She spoke about an ACC network called ACCN, kicking off August 22.

Next up was FX Networks chairman John Landgraf. He spoke about overseeing "the boldest and most acclaimed" programming for adults.

He talked up Fargo, season four starring Chris Rock as a mob boss. Production starts in the fall and it airs in 2020.

Mrs. America features Cate Blanchett. About the fight for equal rights for women, production begins this summer and the show starts next spring.

Alex Garland drama Devs starts in the fall. "Were really excited about this series," said Landgraf.

Comedy Lil Dickey, he said, will make every top ten list for those 18-34, said Landgraf.

National Geographic was next, with Free Solo star Alex Honnold climbing on stage. "Presenting on stage is more intimidating than climbing," he said, as he introduced network president Courteney Monroe.

Brain Games is hosted by Keegan-Michael Key. Uncharted, a travel-adventure series, said Monroe, is hosted by Gordon Ramsay. The Hot Zone premieres Memorial Day, while Genius looks at Aretha Franklin.

The Harlem Gospel Choir then performed Franklins "(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman" and "Respect."

Kenny Mayne's Halftime Show had Mayne making quips about the upfront, and poking fun of some Disney ad sales slides. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about, he said.

In a nod to a network new to Disney, he joked about getting National Geographic magazine as a kid. It was like Playboy with more scholarly articles, he said.

Next up was Freeform, with The Bold Type cast sharing that season four is coming.

Tom Ascheim, Freeform president, spoke about the power of millennials. As they have grown, we've grown with them, he said, noting Freeform's sophisticated content.

New series include ghost drama Motherland, which counts Adam McKay and Will Ferrell among its producers, Everythings Gonna Be Okay, a comedy that touches on autism; and Party of Five, which Ascheim called a modern, powerful, extremely topical reboot.

Ascheim noted that Kleenex might be a good advertiser for Party of Five.

He also talked up Freeform's holiday stunts, such as 25 Days of Christmas.

Robin Roberts from Good Morning America was out next. She said we are living in exciting and challenging times, and GMA offers that human connection.

She introduced World News Tonight anchor David Muir. He called Roberts the heart and soul of mornings in America.

He reminded Americans that we have more in common than that which divides us. He also plugged 20/20 and spoke of the vast Democratic field vying for president. Anyone else wanna run? he joked. It's wide open.

Julie Bowen of Modern Family was out next, introducing Karey Burke, entertainment president. Bowen called Burke fearless and funny.

Burke called it a really big year for the company, and for herself.

She called The Bachelor the gift that keeps on giving. She described ABC programming as trail-blazing, thought-provoking and entertaining, and noted a strong access point for women.

She said ABC's strategy includes scripted and unscripted series, and big live events.

Describing Tiffany Haddish's Kids Say the Darndest Things, Burke called the project a dream come true. It will air Sundays at 8 p.m.

Next season will be the final one for Modern Family, and Burke introduced the cast of the long-running comedy and its creator, Steve Levitan. I am tearing up because I have to fill that time slot next year, Burke said.

Levitan recalled how 12 years and four network presidents ago, ABC decided to show the entire pilot of Modern Family at the upfront.

This room laughed in all the right places, he said. And when Cam and Mitchell introduced their new daughter to the family, they even cheered. In 22 minutes our lives changed forever.

We want to thank you for supporting us so enthusiastically from the very beginning and we plan on finishing strong, Levitan added.

Burke then introduce Stumptown, a drama starring Cobie Smulders, the actress everyone wanted.

She also introduced Grey's Anatomy, which is becoming the longest-running medical drama in TV history. Next season, there will be more crossover events be
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