Starcom Chief Proclaims Death of TV Upfront

Cites New Reality of Video Content Leaping to 'All Screens'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Starcom CEO John Muszynski, whose media agency controls $8.5 billion in TV spending by marketers annually, called on TV executives to up their game if they want to hang onto ad budgets and suggested that the explosion of new media would end the current TV upfront as we know it.
Starcom CEO John Muszynski will be handling upfront negotiations this year.
Starcom CEO John Muszynski will be handling upfront negotiations this year.

Long one of the most controversial and outspoken media-agency executives around this time of year, Mr. Muszynski this morning declared that "the upfront must transform from a TV upfront to a video upfront," because content has leaped from TV to encompass all screens.

Increased new-media opportunities would also lead to the emergence of a year-round upfront market, he believes, because of the large degree of collaboration required for multiplatform deals built around a single show. "Lean-in opportunities will lead to a 365-day upfront market rapidly supplying and supporting content that engages people in new environments throughout the year," he said.

'Mass behavior has taken effect'
Mr. Muszynski, who was the first to encourage clients to think of investing in cross-platform video opportunities across TV, video on demand, wireless and PCs back in 2004, suggested that advertisers would hold money out of the market for the myriad offers that come along outside the traditional fall start of the TV season. He will be taking a more active role in the upfront this year, after Elizabeth Herbst-Brady, senior VP-director of broadcast investment, said she was relocating to New York and has stepped down from conducting this year's negotiations.

Citing statistics offered by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the Starcom chief said that 8 million iTunes video downloads show "mass behavior has taken effect," but not to the detriment of TV programming. "ABC's 'Lost' saw a 14% spike in the on-air ratings following the launch of downloadable 'Lost' episodes on iTunes." But for a buyer looking to tap the consumer interest in "Lost" beyond the TV screen, they happened outside the upfront.

Mr. Muszynski told TV players, "As long as behaviors involving TV stay strong, your market will stay strong. You are the most powerful mass medium, with the power of sight, sound and motion on your side, and you produce some damn amazing content. We get that. But here's where your challenge becomes much bigger -- you must keep perpetuating TV-interaction behaviors. Because I guarantee you, your 'share of behaviors' will be reflected in your 'share of media budgets.'"

Consumer engagement
He charged TV sellers with proving that such consumer interaction was working to help sell clients' products. "I urge you all: Up your game in terms of engagement metrics. You show us, prove to us that people pay attention to you and we'll do the same."

Mr. Muszynksi, who was promoted to Starcom CEO last year, has long been one of the most vocal and controversial of the media-agency CEOs. He explained that Starcom was one agency that did not silo its staff, training them in all disciplines. He suggested TV sellers do the same. "Rethink your structures. ... Remove your silos and present us with a sales leader representing all your offerings." He added that TV sellers shouldn't be afraid to sell around the ad. "It's not about putting the product everywhere anymore. It's about getting viewers to pay attention, and then connect with them in other ways."

Mr. Muszynksi, who spoke at a MediaPost upfront event this morning, gave an example of how a movie, "Snakes on a Plane," has developed a wide following and become a catchphrase as consumers adopted and parodied the movie on video site YouTube.com -- before the movie has even been released.

"While TV is not extinct, the upfront as we knew it has come to an end, yielding the birth, this year, of a true video upfront, which will adapt and transform because consumers say so."
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