The convergence of the TV and digital worlds has never been more apparent than at the highly touted event, NewFronts. What is NewFronts? It is a week-long event devoted to presentations from digital media companies to media buyers about their upcoming slate of new shows. Think Shark Tank, where the shark is an ad-buyer, and the entrepreneurs are the content companies selling their latest, greatest show ideas. This year, the event is split between New York and Los Angeles, with New York’s event having just finished up and Los Angeles’s event scheduled for October.
NewFronts is important for digital media companies because it creates a marketplace for showcasing high-quality creators and distributors of video at scale. Every year it has grown in scale and provided digital media the legitimacy it has craved since the early days of the internet. With giants like YouTube and Hulu providing billions of online viewers each day, there is an enormous potential for digital advertising—hence, why NewFronts exists.
This event provides incredible insight into the emerging trends of the digital media industry, so let’s take a look at five “hot takes” from New York’s NewFronts event about the digital content arena.
- Digital Brands and Traditional Content Creators Finally Play Nice
Only a few years ago, enthusiastic presenters from digital brands claimed TV was dead. However, a strange thing happened: Digital streaming made TV more relevant. The advent of mobile streaming has increased demand for TV content but has also put traditional TV in trouble. Both sides see an opportunity, and it starts with holding hands at this year’s NewFronts.
Companies such as Disney, Hulu, and YouTube touted the power of TV and how digital media companies can utilize it. Premium digital content will not only be available online but through channels on connected TV devices. In fact, as Hulu demonstrated, 78 percent of Hulu viewing takes place in the living room on connected TVs.
TV is not going anywhere. One big media company even decided to merge its separate digital and TV events into one presentation. Its representatives believe digital should be taken more seriously, and that there is more serious opportunity than years prior. The best chance for traditional content creators to sail into the future of streaming content is to join the digital brands pillaging their ad money.
- New Insights, New Voices, and New Audiences Guide the Future of Digital Content
Publishers have had a particularly difficult time adapting to the new digital streaming landscape, but there is hope. The New York Times’s Sebastian Tomich gave a stirring presentation at NewFronts in which he said, “To make a product worth paying for, we have to continue to invest in new areas of coverage, new digital experiences for our journalism, and new audiences.”
Digital brands are allowing more connectivity among groups and emerging markets. The Times believes it can expand into new digital markets by presenting stories from different demographics and cultural perspectives. Its first move is to push into Hollywood.
Why is it so important to address these niches for publishers? Jessica Bennett, a gender editor at The Times, answered by saying, “Female global consumer spending power is now $20 trillion.” Translation? The more you focus on providing quality content to niches, the more advertising money there is to be had.
- Brand Safety is a Top Concern
Last year’s dramatic YouTube brand safety scandal woke up the entire digital advertising industry. Since then, YouTube has made huge efforts to protect brands from advertising in front of questionable content. Unfortunately for YouTube, this year’s NewFronts featured two messages to ad buyers: We are better than TV, or we are better than YouTube. The former speaks to the lag in TV ratings, but the latter is a clear indictment of the brand safety issues that have emerged in the industry.
Brand safety has become a major selling point for publishers. While content creators have lamented the new digital advertising landscape, a wake-up call was necessary for digital marketers. The internet is finally evolving from the Wild West of media to a major entertainment option. More certainty means more advertising dollars for safe and short content creators.
- Over-the-Top Content Is Blowing Up
OTT content streaming bundles have become a huge topic in the industry lately. While TV companies and startups were launching their own products, publishers took center stage at NewFronts for OTT content.
Several publishers are creating greater online content presences because they need to reach consumers on new platforms to survive. Condé Nast (publisher of brands like GQ, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and The New Yorker) announced three new OTT channels that will start streaming on connected devices like Apple TV. Another large publisher, Meredith Corp., used NewFronts to promote their current OTT channel, PeopleTV. They announced shows such as the talk show Chatter, which features Rosie Diaz and will air live on the channel and Twitter.
By creating their own content, companies can promise advertisers that the content aligns with advertisers’ messages. OTT content is a huge leap forward for publishers and allows them to collect the ever-increasing share of ad dollars from digital spaces.
- Short-Form Video is the Future of Internet Video
Short-form video has been on a roller coaster between last year’s NewFronts and this year’s event. Last year, every company pitched itself as a short-form video producer in order to jump on the “pivot to video” bandwagon. Facebook then announced it would cut back on short-form video on its new feeds, and many companies rescinded their enthusiasm.
Larger companies like Netflix have remained undeterred, however. While Netflix has made a major play into feature-length TV shows and movies lately, they have also delved into short-form video as a play to get more mobile users. At NewFronts, Netflix said a quarter of its views come from mobile, so getting shorter content to hold mobile users’ attention has been a primary concern. Netflix announced it would partner with BuzzFeed to create a news show called Follow This; they also snatched Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee from Crackle.
Other companies like Disney have invested heavily in short-form video as well. At its NewFronts presentation, they announced the debut of Maker.tv, which provides a premium site for additional content not found on YouTube. The goal is to empower content creators, provide brand-safe content, and monetize short-form video content from properties such as ABC, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and ESPN. If Disney is taking this bet, then short-form video truly is the future of internet video.
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