NewFronts: How MCNs Are Courting Ad Buyers With Facebook, Snapchat and Vessel

iPhone 6 - H 2014
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iPhone 6 - H 2014

It's not a one-platform show any longer at the Digital Content NewFronts in New York as tech giants bring more options to content creators.

Facebook might not have an official presence at the Digital Content NewFronts in New York, but it’s almost certain that advertisers will be hearing a lot about the social networking giant and other emerging video platforms during the next two weeks. 

The rise of Facebook Video as a powerful distribution tool for content creators has signaled a seismic shift in the online video industry: YouTube is no longer the only video platform in town. And it’s not just Facebook. Snapchat and Twitter have also introduced video platforms in recent months, and a host of upstarts are giving creators more homes for their content.

Several digital media executives, many who run companies that for years were focused solely on YouTube, say that multiplatform distribution and solutions for brands across these platforms will factor into their NewFront presentations. “We have swiftly moved into the era of multiplatform distribution and over-the-top,” says Will Keenan, president of Endemol Beyond USA. “My goal is to get our content on every online video platform known to man. That’s the game now.”



Keenan estimates that Endemol Beyond, the digital division of Endemol Shine North America that works with a small number of top creators, including beauty guru Michelle Phan and Pitbull, distributes its content on about two dozen video platforms in addition to YouTube.

It’s a significant shift from the NewFronts just one year ago, when Facebook’s video platform was still nascent, Snapchat had yet to launch its channel-based Discover feature and Jason Kilar’s premium streaming service Vessel was in stealth mode. And it comes as the digital video industry is establishing itself as a must-have ad buy.  

This year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau is expected to host its largest NewFronts yet, with more than 30 companies presenting during a two-week period that begins April 27 and runs through May 7. Traditional media companies such as The New York Times will court advertisers to its slate of digital offerings alongside new media firms like Maker Studios and established tech players including AOL.

The energy around this year’s event is palpable, executives say. Brands no long need to be convinced that digital advertising is a big business. Digital video advertising was up 17 percent in 2014 to $3.3 billion, according to the IAB. That number will only grow. EMarketer estimates that it will jump to $7.8 billion in 2015. While that’s still a fraction of the TV advertising business, brands are taking notice, says Maker Studios COO Courtney Holt.

“There’s a lot more demand for what we’re offering, whereas in the past we were sort of forcing ourselves into the conversation,” he says. “We’ve got the attention of the most important marketing executives on the planet making this week a priority. That’s a change from what I saw even two years ago.”

Sorosh Tavakoli, senior vp adtech at online video solutions provider Ooyala, says the NewFronts are now recognized as an important place to do business. “Everyone has come to terms that no one can afford to miss out on the nearly $8 billion opportunity with online video in the U.S.” he adds.



Despite the changing landscape, NewFronts founding partner YouTube is still expected to take center stage. The Google-owned streaming giant will host a glitzy, star-studded affair at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, April 29. There, YouTube will bring back Google Preferred, the premium-advertising tier it unveiled at the NewFronts last year. According to Google, the offering, which gives advertisers access to a pool of top creators, attracted more than 30 brands that had no previously advertised with YouTube.

The importance of YouTube in the online video world is not waning, but changing as creators expand onto other platforms. “Whether you’re an MCN or an online content creator, if you don’t make YouTube a part of your strategy, chance are that you’re going to fail,” Keenan says. “But even though YouTube has the biggest, most influential, youngest audience, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t get my content on other platforms.”

But some insiders say they are approaching multiplatform strategy cautiously. Facebook, which hosted a small gather in New York last week to unveil its new branded content offering Anthology, still does not offer features such as pre-rolls. And Snapchat advertising offerings are still in their infancy. “A lot of people are going to celebrate things that are not ready to be celebrated,” says one digital executive. “These new platforms will get there, but they might not be there at this moment in time.”

Here is the full Digital Content NewFronts schedule: 

Monday, April 27
8 a.m. - MediaLink 
9 a.m. - New York Times
12 p.m. - BuzzFeed
3 p.m. - Bloomberg Media
6 p.m. - Yahoo!

Tuesday, April 28
9 a.m. - Maker Studios
12 p.m. - Mode Media
3 p.m. - Conde Nast Entertainment
6 p.m. - AOL

Wednesday, April 29
9 a.m. - Hulu
12 p.m. - PlayStation
3 p.m. - Refinery29
6 p.m. - YouTube

Thursday, April 30
9 a.m. - Time Inc.
11:30 a.m. - Lin Digital
2 p.m. - DigitasLBi
6 p.m. - PopSugar
6 p.m. - Vevo

Friday, May 1
9 a.m. - News Corp.
12 p.m. - Time Warner Cable
3 p.m. - Vice Media

Monday, May 4
9 a.m. - National Geographic
12 p.m. - Fullscreen
3 p.m. - Machinima
6 p.m. - Defy Media

Tuesday, May 5
9 a.m. - Discovery Digital Media
12 p.m. - Collective Digital Studio
3 p.m. - StyleHaul
6 p.m. - HealthiNation

Wednesday, May 6
9 a.m. - Whistle Sports
12 p.m. - IAB NewFronts Insights Lunch
6 p.m. - BeatPort

Thursday, May 7
9 a.m. - TheStreet
12 p.m. - Endemol Beyond
3 p.m. - / Elite Daily