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TV Upfronts Dive Deep Into Digital

Broadcast, cable nets tout cross-platform products aplenty, from Watch ABC to CW Seed

This week’s upfront presentations in Manhattan weren’t purely about TV; broadcast and cable made plenty of digital waves as well.

ABC Adapts to Apps
ABC became the first broadcaster to make itself available on smartphones and tablets via livestream. The Watch ABC app will be available gratis in select markets at launch for a brief period, but is intended for pay-TV subscribers.

Mobile figures to be enormously important to the future of TV but getting a read on smartphone and tablet viewing has been as gnarly as gazing into a cloudy crystal ball. In a critical component of its Watch ABC launch, the Alphabet net will participate in Nielsen’s first trial to incorporate mobile video apps into the ratings firm’s online measurement metrics.

Pilot Scorecard: Track TV Orders in Real-Time

If the duo can show the pilot works—and accurately measures ads and audience makeup across mobile, Web and TV screens—it would solve a burning issue for the industry. TV nets have been loath to make content available on multiple platforms without a standard way to track ads.

“An increasing amount of our digital video viewing comes from apps on mobile devices, so the ability to understand who sees ads is crucial for our business,” ABC sales prexy Geri Wang said in announcing the Nielsen partnership.

The ABC and Nielsen test will run over the summer through September.

Fox Pumps Gas Into VOD Ad Engine
It’s been a decade since cable introduced video-on-demand, and the biz hasn’t managed to offer an effective way to serve up ads in VOD content — while the online video world figured it out years ago and is stream-rolling ahead.

Until now, that is, according to Fox. The net ballyhooed the potential for dynamic ad insertion of VOD, which Toby Byrne, sales prexy for Fox Broadcasting and Fox Sports Media Group, sees as an attractive way to potentially wean viewers off ad-skipping DVRs. With VOD, Fox disables fast-forward functions.

“There’s an audience there, and the audience seems to be growing,” he said.

Fox will begin selling VOD ads with Comcast starting this summer, with a broader rollout with multiple operators January 2014. Comcast also is working with several other networks on VOD ad insertion, including those from NBCUniversal, but other cable ops have been slow to adopt the technology.

Will #Tweet for Cash
Every TV net has tried to harness the Twitter hashtag to promo their shows and drive audience tune-in. Now more of them are looking for not only a buzz booster but real ad dollars via the social site.

Fox Broadcasting will try to sell sponsored tweets with short video clips from TV shows or featuring highlights from live events starting this summer, eyeing rollout for the full broadcast lineup this fall. “It allows us to extend our reach through Twitter in a new, measurable and targeted way,” Fox Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly said at the net’s upfront.

ESPN cut an initial Twitter pact a year ago in the same vein and ran Ford-sponsored campaign with video highlight tweets during the college football season last fall. Sports cabler will expand to more big sporting events including the 2014 World Cup and ESPN’s X-Games. The social giant has similar deals with Weather Channel, Turner Broadcasting System and BBC America, and Twitter is actively looking to expand TV partnerships.

Will TV-fed video tweets with commercials take off? Yes—as long as they enrich the overall viewing experience for consumers, said Erich Joachimsthaler, prexy of brand-marketing firm Vivaldi Partners Group. “If you are interrupting the basketball game with a tweet, you’ve got a problem,” he said.

NBC, ABC Wrap Around Vine
Can you a pique interest in a new show with a six-second snippet? Worth a shot, as some upfront hype-meisters latched onto Vine, the trendy microvideo-blogging service acquired last fall by Twitter.

NBC and ABC tried a new tack to stand out amid the din — and gain a viral foothold — by using Vine to tout their fall slates.

The Peacock posted a Vine mini-trailer for drama “The Blacklist” as well as interviews with talent in frosh series “About a Boy” and returning skeins like “Community.”

ABC, meanwhile, uploaded an action-packed six seconds from new entry “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” complete with a superhero rescuing a damsel in distress by leaping out of a burning building. The spinoff based on Avengers franchise is Marvel’s first TV series.

Turner Turns on Live Internet TV Taps
It’s still not clear whether TV Everywhere will be a savior of the pay TV industry, but Turner Broadcasting System is doubling down on the concept. Starting this summer, Turner will simulcast linear feeds of TNT and TBS over the Internet 24/7, available to subscribers of participating cable and satellite TV partners. They’re the first two national entertainment cable nets to go to live streaming, while Turner’s CNN already is available live in the U.S. via TV Everywhere.

An important reason Turner’s move might get traction: TNT and TBS live online streams will include all of the sports programming on the channels, including NBA, Major League Baseball and NCAA men’s basketball championship games.

‘CW Seed’ Takes Root
Young-skewing net CW tried to flaunt digital cred, announcing plans to relaunch CWD, its digital studio unit, as CW Seed. Under the new banner, CW Seed will continue to produce online original material — with plans for seven Web series this year — but it also will function as a subsite within CWTV.com starting in late summer. The net also touted pact to distribute shows to Apple TV set-tops, in addition to Microsoft’s Xbox gameconsole and Windows 8 devices.

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