×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NewFronts: AOL Bets on Star Wattage to Win TV Ad Dollars

Slate of Internet original series features Sarah Jessica Parker, Hank Azaria, Nicole Richie, Gwyneth Paltrow and others

AOL is tripling investment in original video programming this year with a slate of 15 new shows, many featuring brand-name entertainment personalities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Hank Azaria, Nicole Richie and Gwyneth Paltrow.

AOL is previewing the originals slate at the Digital Content NewFronts event in New York. The theme of the presentation is “bridging the gap” between premium online video and TV — in other words, AOL wants marketers to view it as if it were a traditional broadcast or cable net.

“There’s a moment in time when consumers and advertisers want to start bridging the gap between digital and traditional TV,” Ran Harnevo, senior veep of video at AOL, said in an interview. “The two industries are going to become one sooner rather than later.”

As part of trying to wrest coin away from TV ad budgets, AOL has teamed up with FreeWheel and Mediaocean on a system that promises to let media buyers extend existing TV buying workflow and systems to reach AOL premium video auds. Companies’ joint solution is FourFronts, which lets online-video publishers sell to TV media buying agencies directly. AOL also is participating in Nielsen’s test to measure online viewing in “overnight” fashion — the only Internet video publisher to do so.

Still, industry analysts say premium Internet video’s scale remains relatively small and note that online video ad budgets aren’t converging with TV spend anytime soon. “We doubt that meaningful ad budgets shift to the web because of the (NewFronts) presentations,” Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser wrote in a research note.

But AOL is trying in several ways to combine the low-cost content profile of the Internet world with the reach of TV. This week it announced a deal to bring a six-hour daily block of HuffPost Live — an interactive online talkshow launched last summer — to Mark Cuban’s AXS TV cable network.

AOL’s online original series are “centered around creators with authentic voices telling real stories,” said Karen Cahn, head of original programming for AOL On Network. New shows span autos, entertainment, tech, style, business, sports, parenting and food.

The AOL entertainment slate includes “City.Ballet.” from exec producer Sarah Jessica Parker, a docudrama about New York City Ballet and dancers produced by Pretty Matches Prods. and Zero Point Zero Prods.; and “#CandidlyNicole” based on Richie’s Twitter feed musings on her daily life, produced by Telepictures Prods. and World of Wonder.

“Second Chances” features Paltrow and Tracy Anderson talking to women who have overcome hardships. Skein is produced by Ryan Seacrest Prods.  Azaria stars in “Fatherhood,” a show about the challenges of being a first-time father, produced by BermanBraun.

Sports and lifestyle fare includes Mike Tollin’s “My Ink” examining the world of tattoos among sports celebs, produced by Mandalay Sports Media; “Anthony Eats America,” a food travelogue featuring actor-comedian Anthony Anderson produced by Principato-Young Entertainment; and “Now Eat This! Italy With Rocco DiSpirito,” in which the chef visits Italian moms to learn culinary secrets.

In the style category, AOL entries are “Inspiration Point With Jonathan Adler,” produced by AOL Studios, and “The Sartorialist,” in which photographer Scott Schuman searches for fashion trends on city streets.

Pair of tech shows, both from AOL Studios, are “Hardwired” covering wearable gadgets, and “The Future Starts Here,” exploring humanity’s evolution with technology.

Business shows are “Funded,” success stories about crowdfunded small businesses hosted by author-comedian Baratunde Thurston, and “Acting Disruptive,” profiles of Hollywood stars who are launching tech and new-media startups, produced by Tribeca Enterprises.

At close of event, AOL topper Tim Armstrong announced that Razorfish, in partnership with Digitas LBi, bought the biz  channel on the AOL On Network, giving them exclusivity on both “Funded” and “Acting Disruptive.”

Other shows in the mix: “Flat Out,” a docu-series following 17-year-old NASCAR driver Dylan Kwasniewski; “Fuego Your Life,” with Colombian-born host Sandra Vergara dishing on style and beauty, produced by Telepictures Prods.

Content creators behind AOL’s new originals are “all digital natives, with their own blogs and huge Twitter followings,” Cahn said, noting that Richie has more than 4 million Twitter followers. “That’s not to say it’s not uber-premium in quality, but that they know how to engage an audience.”

Shows will premiere on the AOL On Network platform and across 1,700 partner sites. AOL vidsites had 40.5 million unique viewers who watched 724.4 million videos in March, according to comScore.

AOL also is touting the success of the previous season’s programming slate. At last year’s NewFronts it announced six shows: “Digital Justice,” “Decoding Style,” “TBE,” “Home of the Brave,” “Fetching” and “Little Women Big Cars.” Season two of “Little Women Big Cars,” created with Vuguru, debuted earlier this month. Earlier this year, AOL Autos’ “Translogic” and Autoblog’s “The List,” were picked up by Fox Sports Media Group’s Speed to become linear TV shows.

“We have on average 60 million uniques exposed to our content and ads. We have enough distribution where we can create a lot more original content,” Harnevo said.

In addition, AOL will pitch a new solution, dubbed Be On, to produce branded, multiplatform video content for advertisers and agencies. Be On incorporates video-distribution service goviral (which AOL acquired in January 2011) with AOL Studios production and analytical capabilities.

Separately, last week Internet media company shut down AOL Music and several other music sites, as it shifts toward higher-growth areas such as original online video content.

More Digital

  • Terry Back chairman ACF

    Veteran U.K. Media Investor Terry Back Joins ACF as Chairman

    CANNES — Veteran U.K. film industry investor Terry Back has joined ACF investment bank as chairman. ACF, headed by CEO Thomas Dey, has been at the forefront of the M&A activity around independent TV and film production outfits, mostly in the unscripted TV arena. ACF is in the midst of expanding its activities in the [...]

  • Jay Frank

    Jay Frank, UMG Senior VP and Digital Music Veteran, Dies at 47

    Universal Music executive and digital music veteran Jay Frank died Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 47. UMG chief Lucian Grainge remembered him in a message sent to the company. “Dear Colleagues,” it reads. “I’m deeply saddened to tell you that our colleague and friend Jay Frank has passed after a recurrence of [...]

  • Sam-Colby-The-Graveyard

    YouTube’s Sam and Colby Unveil ‘The Graveyard’ Paranormal Series Set in London

    Sam and Colby, YouTube’s favorite DIY paranormal investigators, headed to the U.K. for their next big ghost-hunting project. The duo today released the trailer for “The Graveyard,” a four-part docu-series shot in The Langham – by legend, London’s most haunted hotel – and an abandoned church graveyard. The project is their first international expedition. The [...]

  • Santos Dumont

    Mipcom: International TV Output Picture Changing for U.S. Majors

    The global import-export strategies of the U.S. majors are in flux as the world’s major content companies gather this week in Cannes for the annual Mipcom market and conference. Disney, WarnerMedia and the other handful of media conglomerates that control the vast majority of the U.S. market are in the midst of a radical transition [...]

  • Babylon Berlin

    ITV-Backed Streamer Cirkus to Launch European Drama Service Kritic (EXCLUSIVE)

    SVOD outfit Cirkus is expanding with Kritic, a new service programmed with premium non-English-language drama. The first launch will be in Sweden in December and feature big-ticket shows such as “Babylon Berlin” from Germany and “Gomorrah” from Italy. Cirkus has established itself in the Nordics and German-speaking territories. Kritic will roll out in Sweden before [...]

  • Mama K's Tesm 4

    Time Travel, Child Hosts, Diversity Build in Kids Shows, Says Glance Study

    CANNES —  More or less the only thing that hasn’t changed in Avril Blondelot’s MipJunior presentation of Kids Audience Successes Around the Globe was Blondelot herself. As well as, which she began by reporting, that “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Miraculous Ladybug” – in that order – still dominate the rankings for the [...]

  • Activision Blizzard

    Activision Blizzard Stock Recovers From Hong Kong Fallout

    Activision Blizzard saw its stock recover Friday despite continued backlash over its decision to punish a “Hearthstone” player for publicly siding with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. The company’s share price was up more than 2% Friday, closing at $54.82. Activision had been in the spotlight ever since Ng Wai Chung, a player of its “Hearthstone” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content