Digital Video NewFronts

Condé Nast Swings at Digital and TV in Its NewFronts Pitch

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Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment, and other executives argued that the company's video often outperformed traditional TV.
Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment, and other executives argued that the company's video often outperformed traditional TV. Credit: Via IAB

It took about 30 seconds after the opening montage at Condé Nast's NewFronts presentation on Tuesday for the publisher to take advantage of the mess in digital media.

"Fake news, alternatives facts, fraud, non-brand-safe content," chief business officer Jim Norton told the crowd at Cipriani 25 in downtown Manhattan. "But the challenges facing our industry have inspired and energized us. Condé Nast has always been the place where quality content brand safety and engaged audiences have always been unquestioned."

"So let me ask you," Norton added. "Do you know where your ads are running?"

But the publisher of brands including Vogue, Wired and The New Yorker didn't show much love to TV either, arguing that its online videos were matching or beating TV's reach.

Condé Nast Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff displayed a slide, unambiguously titled "Outperforming TV Networks," that showed the company's "top performers" earning the equivalent of a 2.0 rating among 18-to-49-year-olds while 43 primetime TV series earned just a 1.0 Nielsen rating.

The NewFronts are a sales pitch, of course, and like most sales pitches, this one left out some key caveats.

That slide, for example, compared a pair of videos' first-day views with dozens of TV series' average ratings over months: It put Vogue's "73 Questions With Selena Gomez" on March 21 and Wired's "Ryan Reynolds & Jake Gyllenhaal Answer the Web's Most Searched Questions" on March 22 up against certain shows' season ratings through early March. So the time frames aren't apples-to-apples. Maybe some of those TV series had individual episodes that did better.

(Condé Nast says plenty of other videos performed as well but it picked two recent ones for the purpose of the presentation.)

Nielsen ratings also reflect average viewers per minute over the course of a broadcast while YouTube views, the basis for Condé Nast's calculations, reflect more or less how many people watched past 30 seconds.

And the slide pits two Condé Nast "top performers" against a batch of primetime's weakest performers, which seems a little unfair. In the same week that those videos debuted, TV shows that beat a 2.0 included "Dancing with the Stars" (2.1), two episodes of "The Voice" (2.3 and 2.4), "60 Minutes" (2.5), "Empire" (2.8) and "The Walking Dead" (4.9). Presumably a slide comparing two of TV's top performing single episodes with a basket of lesser-seen web video would give buyers a different takeaway.

All that said, in some ways the point is taken: Condé Nast is pulling together big audiences for polished content, traditionally TV's best differentiators.

Condé showed clips from other recent successes such as "Hurt Bae," a video about infidelity from The Scene, a Condé Nast video property that Ostroff said gets 100 million monthly views.

The company also expanded its "lineups" for advertisers to add "The Hit Predicter," designed to attach marketers to Condé Nast's "highest-velocity content before it starts to trend," said Lisa Valentino, chief revenue officer-industry and agency.

It extended its partnership with the VR production company Jaunt on a program at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts that gives students access to VR equipment and resources. And it announced initiatives such as new documentary series with directors Morgan Spurlock ("Supersize Me") and Rod Blackhurst ("Amanda Knox").

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