Tuesday afternoon was AOL’s turn in a weeklong worth of upfront-style events from leading digital media companies. AOL is following Yahoo, which presented last night, and Hulu, which presented this morning. The companies collectively hope to steer more than a billion dollars worth of advertisements online.
To make that happen, AOL is touting its original programming and bringing out stars. Parker took the stage before a backdrop that read “It’s On.”
Parker will be executive producing a documentary series about the New York City Ballet that features behind-the-scenes access to the dance troupe in production. City.Ballet will premiere this autumn.
As for Paltrow, she and Tracy Anderson will co-host a show called Second Chances about women overcoming adversity. The series comes from Ryan Seacrest Productions. And Azaria has created and will star in the BermanBraun-produced Fatherhood, about the multitude of challenges that come with being a first-time father.
Other stars figure to participate in Acting Disruptive, described as featuring “Hollywood’s biggest names away from the cameras as they launch tech and new-media start-ups.” It’s produced by Tribeca Enterprises. Business also gets a spotlight in Funded, about crowdfunded success stories.
AOL’s digital video franchises have often skewed heavily toward the soft lifestyle breed. This year appears to be no different. Other shows in AOL’s pipeline include The Sartorialist, featuring Scott Schuman on urban style; Inspiration Point with Jonathan Adler, a designer sharing life tips; Fuego Your Life starring Sandra Vergara, the younger sister of the Modern Family star; and #CandidlyNicole, a series where Nicole Richie talks about being Nicole Richie. The series is said to be inspired by her Twitter feed.
Also on tap are Flat Out, a docuseries series featuring 17-year-old NASCAR prodigy Dylan Kwasniewski; Hardwired, by hosted by YouTube’s iJustine; and The Future Starts Here, from Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain about the evolution of technology and its effect on humanity.
AOL has two new cooking shows coming onto its network: Now Eat This! Italy With Rocco DiSpirito as well as (Anthony) Anthony Eats America.
The presentation follows from last year’s pitch to advertisers where AOL brought out Michael Eisner to launch AOL On, an original video portal. “The Internet needs to be programmed,” AOL Tim Armstrong said then.
The goal of this year’s NewFront is not only to introduce new programming, but also to convince ad buyers to put their money online. Some analysts say that digital media companies are struggling to make that happen because the scale of digital inventory remains small and the majority of the spending comes from the modest-sized digital earmarks of a brand’s ad budget.
“These events may help deepen relationships between sellers and buyers but are mostly a sideshow,” wrote Pivotal analyst Brian Wieser in a report Tuesday morning.
Digital executives disagree.
“Online video is mainstream,” Ran Harnevo, senior vp video at AOL, said at the NewFront presentation. “What we used to call the World Wide Web is now just desktops.”