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NewFronts Exodus Continues: Warner Bros. and Machinima Back Out, AOL to Hold Private Client Meetings

This year’s Digital Content NewFronts hype-fest — the online video biz’s answer to the TV upfronts — is losing more steam, as a number of companies are opting to use their marketing dollars instead for private pitches to advertisers.

Warner Bros. Digital Networks, which includes its Machinima fanboy and gamer digital network, has canceled its session at the NewFronts in New York, which had been scheduled for Friday, May 5, at 9 a.m.

“We have decided to postpone our NewFronts presentation so we can focus on presenting an even more immersive and comprehensive unveiling of the Warner Bros. Digital Networks to our Warner Bros. family, our partners, and our loyal fans, early this summer,” the company said in a statement.

Verizon-owned AOL, meanwhile, said it will be holding “closed-door client meetings” at this year’s NewFronts instead of the usual large event. “We’ve always enjoyed innovating around the NewFronts — first as a founding partner and then with a first-of-its-kind experiential NewFront in 2016,” AOL said in a statement. “We value our deep relationship with the IAB and look forward to our continued work together.”

The pullbacks come after BuzzFeed, Fullscreen Media and Yahoo (another NewFronts founding member) each pulled out of the lineup, and Studio71 nixed its in-person presentation in NYC but says it’s going to hold a “virtual” NewFronts presentation online instead.

At the same time, the NewFronts have attracted some new faces, too: Twitter jumped at the chance to take over Yahoo’s May 1 evening slot. Other recent additions to the schedule include BBC.com, MediaLink, Astronauts Wanted and Uproxx Media.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, the trade group that manages the annual event, tried to downplay the impact of the cancellations. “Historically, we have always seen shifts in the schedule — albeit not always this close to the event itself,” said Anna Bager, IAB’s SVP and GM of mobile and video. She added that last year’s NewFronts “attracted droves of marketers and media buyers with intent to allocate budget — and from what we’re hearing from the 2017 presenters, this year should be no different on that score.”

And, of course, not everyone is fleeing the NewFronts. “Most advertisers experience our brand online, so it makes a big difference when a client can touch and feel us ‘IRL,'” said David Grant, president of Popsugar Studios, which is presenting on May 3.

Other companies still slated to present include Hulu, YouTube, AwesomenessTV, Bloomberg Media, Business Insider, Conde Nast Entertainment, Defy Media, DigitasLBi, Disney Media-Maker Studios, Group Nine Media, Hearst Digital Media, the New York Times, Time Inc., Turner and Vice Media.

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