Digital, Cable and Broadcast Still Siloed at Upfronts

Despite Rampant Talk of 'Cross-Platform' Advantages, TV Players Still Present Offerings Separately

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NBCUniversal restructured its broadcast, cable and digital ad-sales teams under Linda Yaccarino earlier this year with the intention of making it easier to mix and match its portfolio. Yet it presented its digital offerings in a separate presentation from its network upfronts.

NBC's showpiece
NBC's showpiece

NBCU isn't alone. Though "cross-platform integrations" and "360-degree solutions" are talking points at the upfronts -- the time when TV networks secure advertising commitments for the fall season -- most media sellers don't seem to be walking the walk when it comes to presenting them. They are often showcasing digital, cable and broadcast options separately to advertisers.

Evidence the NewFronts, an effort by purveyors of digital video and other digital ad inventory to compete for TV dollars by mimicking the annual upfront negotiations, which kicks off this week.

Traditional TV players will also take part; they chose to join the likes of Hulu and YouTube in the NewFronts last year as a way to be viewed as legitimate digital-media companies. CBS, Univision and The Weather Channel are among those participating in both.

NBCUniversal, which participated in the NewFronts last year, decided to pitch its offerings a week earlier this year, apart from the pack. The digital event allows the company to showcase its broad portfolio of broadcast and cable properties -- which get their individual presentations during the traditional upfront -- in one place.

That's not to say the networks aren't trying to offer fully integrated options for advertisers. Interactive elements were integral to Syfy's earlier upfront presentation, where nearly every new show introduced had a Google hangout, sync app or online extras attached.

The centerpiece of NBCU's digital event was "The Million Second Quiz," NBC's new live competition series.

The show is being marketed as the first fully convergent TV experience, where viewers will be able to watch a 24/7 live stream and play along at home in real time. Contestants first compete online before being selected to appear on air. The show will air in prime time from a gigantic hourglass structure in the middle of New York, which will also serve as the living quarters for the four on-air players.

The focus of the typical cable and broadcast upfront is on the programming and celebrities, leaving little time to do a deep-dive on digital opportunities.

This is the issue for The Weather Channel, which hosted an upfront earlier in the month where it introduced a new look for the network and unveiled five series and three web series. It will host a digital event today, and said there is just too much to fit into one presentation.

The chatter around upfronts is predominantly focused on how much of advertisers' budgets will go to second-screen and digital-video offerings, and how this content will be packaged. Advertisers have been shifting some money into digital video for several years, but not enough to truly move the needle.

But this year, the consensus among media buyers is that there isn't enough quality video out there to match the demand.

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