NEW YORK: Just as NBC Universal president/ceo Jerry Zucker promised during the Hollywood writers' strike, the media giant has cancelled its Big Apple 'upfront' sales extravaganza where US advertisers traditionally buy television airtime for the fall season.

In a bid to free itself from the "dog and pony show" constraints of the May presentations fest, NBC has opted to unveil a list of programs in April, followed by a series of smaller meetings with advertisers.

In addition, it has pledged to stagger program debuts through the year.

Declares NBC Entertainment co-chairman Marc Graboff: "We are taking what has been a one-way conversation and turning it into a two-way dialogue with advertisers."

In a further break with the past, the company plans to highlight programs from its other outlets, including cable channel USA Network and Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo.

The network's move has been broadly welcomed by media agencies. Says Aaron Cohen, evp at Horizon Media: "It's a step in the right direction. Something like this was bound to happen."

While Charlie Rutman, ceo for North American operations at Havas-owned MPG put his hands together: "I applaud it ... the idea of a constant stream of new programming is good."

NBC's rivals - ABC, CBS, Fox and CW – are sticking with what they know and will go ahead with their glitzy galas at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Madison Square Garden.

They maintain the presentations, although expensive, help generate interest in their programs and drive sales.

Data sourced from International Herald-Tribune; additional content by WARC staff