What's New at the Digital NewFronts

Take that, TV! Interactive players tout youth and "preferred screens" as Facebook looms large (without officially presenting) and BuzzFeed plugs itself as a video brand.

This story first appeared in the May 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Digital media brands haven't quite perfected the showmanship of the traditional TV upfronts. But there's no doubt that ad buyers are paying more attention to the 30-odd digital producers presenting their products at the NewFronts in New York for 10 days beginning April 27. THR ponders the three questions on the minds of buyers.

IS ONLINE VIDEO A BETTER BUY THAN TV?

Digital video advertising was up 17 percent to $3.3 billion in 2014, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and that number is projected to more than double in 2015. It's still a fraction of the TV advertising business, but it's growing as more digital producers argue that they can offer targeted, young audiences. "Brands need to have content-based solutions to connect with millennial and postmillennial audiences," argues Machinima CEO Chad Gutstein. "With all the media consumption capa­bilities that millennials and postmillennials have, a lot of traditional spots over time will go the way of banner ads." Advertisers are expected to respond. Says Videology CEO Scott Ferber, "There will be a shift away from the ques­tion, 'Who's investing more dollars in digital and less in TV?' to, 'Who is investing enough across both to effectively reach more people on their preferred screens?' "

HOW ARE FACEBOOK AND SNAPCHAT CHANGING DISTRIBUTION?

Facebook might not have an official presence at the NewFronts, but advertisers will be hearing a lot about it and other emerging video platforms. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti kicked things off April 27 when he revealed that his viral-driven media company now syndicates videos on more than 20 platforms and video arm BuzzFeed Motion Pictures creates clips designed specifically for Facebook, Snapchat and Vine. But it's still early, cautions one digital exec: "A lot of people are going to celebrate things that are not ready to be celebrated."

WILL VIRTUAL REALITY EXCITE ONLINE?

YouTube and Facebook both recently introduced capabilities for 360-degree video, but unlike Hollywood, which has been quick to jump on the virtual reality landscape, the online video world has been tepid toward the emerging medium. Expect that to change. The New York Times unveiled a VR experience about a graffiti artist at its presentation April 27, and Endemol Beyond president Will Keenan says that's just the beginning. "There's a huge wave coming," he says. "On YouTube, engagement and direct connection with viewers is the most important thing. VR is taking that to a whole new level."

comments powered by Disqus