Buzzfeed, Vice shake ‘Upfronts’
The “Newfronts,” a concerted effort to bring digital video products into the television upfront season, will feature a decidedly diverse lineup of companies this year. While some of the larger digital media companies, like Yahoo, Hulu, Microsoft and Google have been doing newfront presentations for years, this year there is an influx of hot new video startups, along with some supporting legacy media players.
BuzzFeed, Vice and Maker Studios are getting into the upfront/newfront game, alongside companies like Condé Nast and Time Inc.
“What was sort of interesting to me about the newfronts is that people are here, agencies and brands from all around the country are here,” Jonathan Perelman, G.M. of video for BuzzFeed told Capital. “They are in this mindset of learning and thinking about video.”
The television upfront season, which was once just one week in May, has since become a much longer affair. It now kicks off in late March with some small and mid-size cable channels, and runs through “broadcast week” in mid-May, which now sees the broadcasters joined by some of the larger cable conglomerations, including Turner Broadcasting and NBCUniversal.
In 2008, Digitas started what it called a ”NewFront,” which was an effort to bring digital video into the upfront season. The Interactive Advertising Bureau began to organize the event more formally in 2012.
The I.A.B. still runs the show, and has been aggressive in courting digital companies like BuzzFeed and Vice, encouraging them to participate, as well as legacy brands like Condé Nast that are still in the early days of their digital video businesses.
While the quality and breadth of the companies participating in the newfronts have improved dramatically over the last few years, the whole endeavor still lacks the key component that has turned the TV upfronts into such an important part of the business. In the world of television, after the dog and pony shows end, advertisers, media buyers and network salespeople huddle together in their offices and cut multimillion and multibillion dollar deals, buying ad space at a discount against new or existing programs.
According to AdWeek the networks pulled in $19 billion in advertising commitments during the 2013-2014 upfront season.
The digital newfronts aren’t there yet, but they are getting close. This year YouTube will, for the first time, allow advertisers to buy against original programming on YouTube, thanks to a new deal the company signed with Nielsen.
It doesn't appear as though companies like Condé, Time, Vice or BuzzFeed are prepared to do that sort of business just yet—but anyone who hopes to make a serious business out of video has to start somewhere, and, now, has to be at the Upfronts.
During this year’s presentations, Condé Nast and Time Inc. are expected to roll out new digital series and programming, and promote their integrated marketing campaigns.
At its upfront in early May, Vice will be promoting its digital video products, including the recently launched Vice News, as well as its international television products. Vice executives were out in force at the MIPTV conference in Cannes this month, promoting their TV prowess, and announcing a distribution deal with TV production powerhouse FremantleMedia (“American Idol,” “Family Feud”). In the U.S., Vice exists online and on its commercial-free HBO program, but internationally it packages some of its reporting for commercial television. The Fremantle deal is meant to expand that business.
Buzzfeed plans to use the opportunity to explain its video business to advertisers, many of whom may already be familiar with its text and photo-based brand advertising.
“This is not a television upfront,” BuzzFeed’s Perelman says. “We are not bringing out the celebrities, we are not talking about the new shows, what we are going to talk about is really our philosophy of how we think about creating shareable content, and specifically shareable video content.
“This is really, come learn and hear about what we are doing, and when it makes sense we would love to work with you and your brands to create these kinds of videos for your brands,” he added.