YouTube’s NFL gambit
YouTube is the platform with the new NFL rights this year, after it landed NFL Sunday Ticket in a deal that will span at least the next seven seasons. The platform has already been showing off new programs related to NFL, including video series around the NFL Draft, which started this week. YouTube has been putting some of its creators to work with shows related to the NFL. That’s a similar play to how Amazon produced sideshows for “Thursday Night Football” with Twitch stars.
YouTube has an event with MediaLink to kick off NewFronts on Monday, but it also scheduled Brandcast, its main advertiser event for May 17, during the so-called broadcast TV upfront week. YouTube, owned by Google, is trying to solidify its ad business under new CEO Neal Mohan. YouTube’s first-quarter ad revenue declined 2.6% to $6.7 billion, according to Google’s quarterly results. Google is promoting prestige content with NFL, but also leaning more into short-form video with Shorts, positioning itself against TikTok, Meta and Snap.
“Shorts is still a bit behind,” Chalozin said.
Can we get an AI
Meta will put AI front and center in its NewFront presentation. CEO Mark Zuckerberg made AI a cornerstone of Meta’s quarterly financial results this week. “I think there’s an opportunity to introduce AI agents to billions of people in ways that will be useful and meaningful,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re exploring chat experiences in WhatsApp and Messenger, visual creation tools for posts in Facebook and Instagram and ads.”
Advertisers are interested in how AI can help power targeting in ad algorithms and how generative AI could eventually make ads. Meta will also be talking about Reels, its short videos that compete with TikTok. AI is a core part of how Meta is building recommendation algorithms to deliver Reels to users and keep them tuned into the platform.
At the same time, Meta has moved away from developing highly polished videos and long-form series, which used to be at the center of its upfront negotiations with brands now that it is focused on Reels. Last month, Meta dropped “in-stream reserve” as a buying option, which had been an upfront style of ordering inventory for major brands.
Snap, too, is pressing the gas on AI. Snap's NewFront comes in the wake of its partner summit, where the company released an AI chatbot. Snap also has been using AI in its recommendation algorithms and ads platform. On Thursday, Snap posted its first-ever quarterly revenue decline, calling out “continued disruption in demand” for advertising.
The platforms will likely promote machine learning technology, but more importantly, buyers are asking for data and ad measurement, said Ashwini Karandikar, executive VP of media, technology and data at the 4A's, the ad industry trade group. “There is a very clear and explicit ask for better integrated data that is playing a role in how they show up at these NewFronts,” Karandikar said.
NewFronts set the TV upfront stage
CTV and streaming’s presence in the NewFronts continues to hold strong. Major presentations from Samsung, Roku, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, Vevo and Vizio will once again populate the week, with smaller showcases from BBC, Fubo and Crackle among the mainstage presenters.
While previous NewFronts player Tubi hosted an event for advertisers in late March, and advertising newcomer Netflix chose to join the TV upfront week later in May, Roku’s head of U.S. Brand Sales Kristina Shepard said the choice to stay put was strategic.
“Roku isn’t fighting for turf in the streaming wars like so many of the other apps are—Roku is the turf,” said Shepard. “We know that you can’t decorate a house before building the foundation, and that’s why you need to buy the platform before you buy the pieces.”
For other platforms, such as Samsung Ads, the NewFronts is less about buying and more to showcase innovation and surface trends for TV advertisers, said Cathy Oh, Samsung Ads’ global head of marketing.
“That [upfront] buying cycle has certainly gone out the window now, and we’re having conversations about next year already,” said Oh. “I don’t know if the days of one week, all fall [programming] announcements—how much longer that will go for, but I do think folks look at NewFronts as an opportunity to hear about innovation and how we stack against one another.”
Measurement continues to be the buzz
Conversations about media measurement are inescapable. As major TV network groups square off with digital players such as YouTube in a cat fight to prove superiority, CTV and digital platforms will showcase innovations in measurement throughout the week.
Likely to bubble up throughout the week are issues native to digital video, including cross-platform ad duplication and measurement inconsistency across FAST channels, as well as growing shifts toward non-demo metrics such as attention and attribution.
Roku has already announced data and measurement partnerships ahead of the NewFronts, including a retail attribution deal with Instacart and another with media agency UM to measure diverse-owned media impressions.