TV Upfront

Time Inc.'s Digital Video Slate Looks a Lot Like Cable TV

Frothy Reality, Celebrity Chat Shows

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A talk show from Entertainment Weekly that Time Inc. pitched at Thursday's NewFront presentation
A talk show from Entertainment Weekly that Time Inc. pitched at Thursday's NewFront presentation
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Time Inc. avoided many of the buzzwords du jour in its pitch to advertisers at the company's NewFront presentation in New York on Thursday. Sure, "premium" was mentioned a few times, as was "millennial," but for the most part, executives made a clean, well-structured pitch: We have 21 brands creating video, they reach a growing audience, this is how you can work with us.

"We're doing more and moving ever more swiftly into the video space," said J.R. McCabe, Time Inc.'s senior-VP of video, who concluded his portion of the company's roughly hour-long presentation with a sizzle reel full of videos that Time Inc. produced for brands such as Chevrolet, Dewer's and Cotton.

Time Inc. is also moving into new video space, literally: The company will have a 3,000-square-foot video studio at its new headquarters in lower Manhattan, where it's moving this year, he told the NewFront crowd.

Although Time Inc. was pitching digital video to advertisers, its presentation hewed closely to that of a traditional TV upfront. Instead of unleashing a flood of digital video clips, the company showed trailers for 11 new series debuting this year, including documentaries, chat shows and frothy reality TV.

For instance, "A Year in Space" from Time magazine is about astronaut Scott Kelly, who is aboard the International Space Station. "The Bullseye" takes Entertainment Weekly's back page and turns it into a talk show with Entertainment Weekly senior writer Tim Stack. And "Andi's Apple" -- a production from People magazine -- follows former "Bachelorette" star Andy Dorfman as she moves from Atlanta to New York City (and includes the worn out cliché: New York City is Andi's boyfriend.)

This was Time Inc.'s second appearance at the annual NewFronts -- where media companies pitch their digital wares to advertisers -- and it came as the company seeks to radically reinvent itself as a digital-first company. That's no easy feat for the nation's the largest magazine publisher, however, which still derives the bulk of its revenue from print titles. That revenue has floundered as advertisers move their print investments to digital.

But the company appears to be making some strides in the video arena. It produces four live-streaming shows, two of them daily, including "SI Now," which will air its 500th episode tomorrow. Thanks in part to these live programs, Time Inc. has generated more than 1 billion video views since its NewFront last year, according to Mr. McCabe. To further its reach, Time Inc. said it planned to double its distribution partners.

One question dogging publishers that start producing digital video is how they plan to ensure people actually find and watch them. The answer, partly, is to syndicate videos on other sites. Time Inc.'s latest syndication push involves partnering with local digital-media sites -- like those of Gannett and CBS Local Media -- as well as with Amazon and Vessel, the ad-supported, subscription-based video service.

A handful of media buyers in the audience said they were impressed by the pitch, including MediaVest's Robin Steinberg, who said the company focused on quality, value and peformance.

Jess Cagle, People and Entertainment Weekly's editorial director, served as the NewFront's host, injecting some humor into the presentation. He joked about the perks of working at Time Inc., such as foot rubs from Executive VP of Advertising Mark Ford -- "sometimes when you don't even want them," he said, to laughter.

Mr. Cagle also tried joking with the advertisers present. "You could spend more," he said. "It wouldn't kill you." The crowd thought that was sort of funny.