The Upfronts and NewFronts Are Dead. Long Live the ‘VideoFront.’

Television and Web broadcasters recently made their pitches to media buyers during the upfronts and NewFronts respectively. After taking in these annual presentations, since well before there were two fronts to attend, we concluded that holding two separate events is unnecessary. To reflect how today’s audiences consume media, the industry needs a unified “VideoFront.”

Consumers Aren’t Differentiating, Why Is Our Industry?
Despite pundits’ proclamations over the last few years that traditional television is dying, research continues to remind us it’s alive and well. What is fading away however is the distinction between terrestrial television and the myriad of online video content available today. Consumers aren’t differentiating — they want video content. Why should our industry?

Media and technology continue to converge, reinforcing this seamlessness and giving consumers the ability to watch what they want, when they want and on whatever device is convenient to them. If brands haven’t already embraced this always-on mindset, they need to do so. Brands need a unified message that reaches their audience anytime, anywhere while taking advantage of each platform’s unique benefits to the consumer.

Slowly Seeing the Light
Some television networks have gotten the message. During this year’s upfront, ABC, NBC and Turner announced that they have merged their offline and online sales forces. These “one-stop shops” aim to make it easier for media buyers to purchase screen-agnostic campaigns for their clients.

While networks have been offering integrated campaigns for sometime, Turner’s Now Media offers new ways to measure and prove the value of these campaigns. NBC’s Project Symphony singles out select projects to promote across all its platforms.

As evidenced by Now Media’s inclusion of measurement and analytics tools, the data driving media campaigns is evolving. Media planners are still using Nielsen age and demographic guarantees during this upfront period, but they are also pulling in information from additional sources, such as Rentrak and Axiom. We also believe Nielsen TV Households will eventually be called Nielsen Connected Households to better reflect consumers’ device-agnostic viewing habits.

While networks are slowly merging their online and offline properties, progress is slow, and there are still hurdles to overcome. While we predict that we will eventually have the option to purchase a network guarantee that covers all devices, the majority of networks don’t yet offer that option. We’re still dealing with TV guarantees from Nielsen and digital guarantees from Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings and comScore validated Campaign Essentials. (Although the fact that the industry widely accepts guarantees from the latter two organizations is progress in the right direction.)

Fragmenting Audiences
While consumers enjoy a wide variety of content, and publishers are finding ways to unify their content platforms, a problem has emerged. The sheer amount of video content available is resulting in audience fragmentation. In fact, AdAge notes that television networks are spending more money to reach fewer viewers. If the number of new series announced at this year’s upfronts and NewFronts is any indication, this problem will only get worse.

In an attempt to reverse this trend, offline and online publishers are creating “events” to draw in viewers across platforms. Capitalizing on the success of last year’s “The Sound of Music,” NBC is planning live performances of “Peter Pan” and “The Music Man,” and Fox will produce a live version of “Grease.” This summer, Xbox will live stream the Bonnaroo music festival, and Yahoo will start airing a live concert every day for one year.

Online Going Offline
As a final example of how the offline and online worlds are converging, YouTube recently embraced more traditional advertising. In addition to highlighting fashion vlogger Bethany Mota at its NewFront presentation, YouTube produced print and outdoor ads featuring Mota, cosmetics guru Michelle Phan and other stars who got their starts on the video site.

Consumers no longer distinguish between types of video content, and marketers must do the same. They must reach their audiences with a coherent message that adapts to any number of mediums and platforms. A unified “VideoFront” event would help complete the picture by connecting publishers with advertisers and consumers.

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Michele Toller
Michele Toller

As VP of Offline Investment and Activation, I challenge Empower MediaMarketing’s print, out of home and broadcast teams to think in terms of consumer behavior. We focus on reaching consumers on their terms, when they are receptive to receiving brand messages. Outside of media, I’m an avid golfer -- although my score doesn’t always reflect it. I’ve had the pleasure of playing Winged Foot, Oakland Hills Country Club and TPC Scottsdale.