The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the upfront market for TV networks whose fall programming is in flux, but that hasn’t stopped advertisers from ongoing talks about their media strategies.

There’s still a role for an upfront market amid the uncertainty and advertiser demands for greater flexibility, Adam Gerber, global chief media officer at Essence, a unit of WPP’s GroupM, said in an interview.

“There is going to be a market, whether it happens all at once or whether we have some clients moving on a broadcast-year basis, others on a calendar-year basis, or some choose to move to a hybrid scatter,” he said. “What’s going to change and what needs to change is we need the upfront to move from the 20th to the 21st century.”

Gerber spoke with Beet.TV days before the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) publicly pleaded for a shift in the upfront market. The trade group for some of the world’s biggest marketers this month asked that the upfront be shifted to a calendar year.

The move would let advertisers buy 2021 media placements this fall instead of committing now to the traditional October to September schedule that corresponds with seasonal viewing trends. The shift comes as advertisers seek more flexibility during a period of heightened uncertainty.

“We don’t know whether specific programming assets have been confirmed, whether sports is coming back. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace,” Gerber said. “That doesn’t mean that the discussions that we all need to have with our sell-side partners aren’t happening.”

This video is part of a series titled Trust in Partnership in a Time of Change presented by WarnerMedia and Xandr. Please visit this page for additional segments from the series.