×

Online Media Players Gun for TV’s Lost Viewers at NewFronts

Online video is still the plucky, punkish younger cousin to TV’s rich uncle. But digital entertainment now has a firm seat at the big kids’ table on Madison Avenue.

A diverse lineup of media players will tout new projects and initiatives to try to win the business of ad buyers and brand marketers at the 2016 Digital Content NewFronts, the industry’s version of the television upfront season, which runs May 2-13 in New York. Officially in its fifth year, the IAB-managed series of presentations will feature 38 companies (up from 34 last year) along with unofficial piggybacking events hosted by CAA, UTA and others.

“In the old days, it was kind of a sideshow,” says Pete Stein, head of Fullscreen’s brand group. “Now it’s center stage.”

In addition to mainstays like YouTube, AOL and Hulu, presenters new on the NewFronts schedule this year include AwesomenessTV, Turner’s CNN, Activision Blizzard, Mashable, Hearst, Playboy, NowThisNews, Woven Digital and SheKnows Media. “I feel like we are finally at a point where the TV money is tipping to online video — that’s why it’s important for us to be there,” says AwesomenessTV CEO Brian Robbins.

Digital video has grown in stature among media buyers, who today see the segment as more critical than ever to reach younger audiences, who watch less TV. Indeed, YouTube was ranked as the most important outlet by agency and ad execs for TV and video media buying — ahead of ESPN — with Hulu, Vice Media and AOL in the top 10, according to a survey by MyersBizNet.

Popular on Variety

At YouTube’s Brandcast event May 5, the company will highlight internal research that shows its punching power relative to TV. For example, in the U.S., 44% of YouTube viewers aged 18-49 do not watch primetime broadcast TV in an average week. “We are seeing the combination of success clients are having on YouTube, and the challenges they are having in getting [gross rating points] on television,” says Tara Walpert Levy, managing director of agency solutions for Google and YouTube.

Time spent watching traditional TV by consumers 18-24 has dropped roughly 34% between 2011 and 2015, according to Nielsen figures. “Those viewers are getting content and being entertained in other ways,” says Condé Nast Entertainment president Dawn Ostroff, who will show off a slate of millennial-focused programming at the CNE presentation.

And, as the NewFronts promise to abundantly illustrate, TV will be facing even more competition for eyeballs — and ad dollars — from the online-video realm. Time Inc., which has built a 5,000-square-foot studio space at its new lower Manhattan HQ to boost video production, will unveil an over-the-top video service with longer-form, lean-back programming that company execs have said will draw from People and Entertainment Weekly.

But the NewFronts just aren’t in the same league as the TV upfronts. “Very little money moves as a result of the NewFronts,” says GroupM head of digital investment Jon Hsia. The presentations are important for advertisers to understand how to target specific audiences on digital platforms, “but there’s no season for buying digital inventory.”

For Hulu, the NewFronts song-and-dance actually is like an upfront, according to senior VP of sales Peter Naylor. Hulu positions itself as a TV network that just happens to be distributed online. “We’re the first alternative to broadcast and cable,” Naylor says. “Today’s TV media plans have reached a ceiling … and we represent a way to extend and reassemble some of those lost ratings.”

Amid the NewFronts noise are parties, but not the huge, splashy affairs of years past. Disney’s Maker Studios and Yahoo are each holding private events for brands and agencies, scaled down from their former razzle-dazzle. Yahoo is keeping a low profile in general, given its recent retrenchment on content — and possible sale.

Apart from the festivities and possible deal-making, there’s plenty of value in the NewFronts as a chance to educate the market on the power of digital influencers and content produced specifically for Internet platforms. “Everyone under the age of 30 gets what we’re doing,” says Reza Izad, head of Americas for Studio71. “People over 30 intellectualize it but still don’t fully get it.”

More Digital

  • Gary Levine and Jana Winograde Showtime

    Showtime, HBO Broaden Scope as Parent Companies Aim to Grow Their Audiences

    For years, the halo around premium cablers such as HBO and Showtime has been integral to their branding. Their parent companies in a past life — Time Warner and CBS, respectively — seemed to be content with the tens of millions of subscribers each had accumulated. But now, shepherded by new corporate owners — AT&T’s [...]

  • Josh Simon - Netflix

    Netflix Hires Nike Exec Josh Simon as VP of Consumer Products

    Netflix’s burgeoning consumer products group has a new boss: Josh Simon, who is leaving Nike to join the streaming giant. Simon, who’s also a Disney and Color Force alum, has been named VP of consumer products for Netflix. Based in L.A., he will start at the company the week of March 2 to oversee the [...]

  • Bob Chapek Disney CEO

    Why Wall Street Is Unhappy (for Now) With Disney's CEO Change

    We all knew the end was coming. Bob Iger had promised, time and again, that the end was coming. But the rather abrupt announcement Tuesday afternoon that he would relinquish his longtime role as CEO of the Walt Disney Co. — and that theme parks head Bob Chapek would succeed him at the top of [...]

  • FandangoNow - Amazon Fire TV

    Fandango's Video Streaming Service Lands on Amazon Fire TV

    FandangoNow, the on-demand transactional movie and TV service from NBCUniversal-owned Fandango, is now available on Amazon Fire TV devices and Fire TV Edition Smart TVs. The expansion to Amazon’s TV hardware platform comes as Fandango vies to get a bigger slice of the digital-entertainment pie — competing with Amazon Video, as well as Apple, Google [...]

  • The Spanish Princess Starz

    Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch Lifts Lid on Local Originals Drive for SVOD Starzplay

    Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch has outlined the local originals strategy for Starzplay, revealing that a slate of shows are being planned out of the Middle East and India as the business looks to complement its U.S. and English-language pipeline of content. Speaking at the Berlinale Series Market and Conference on Wednesday, the executive told Variety that the [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Adds Deals With Six Anime Creators in Japan

    Global streaming giant, Netflix is partnering with six different Japanese creators in order to expand its slate of originals anime content. Among the deals are ones with Clamp, the female manga collective that was responsible for the “Cardcaptor Sakura” franchise. Another is with Mari Yamazaki, whose “Thermae Romae” manga was turned into two hit live-action [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content