NewFronts Day 3: Wake-up with Wu-Tang at Hulu, Vice delivers dim sum, Vudu makes its first NYC pitch
At the start of the third day of the Digital Content NewFronts, it’s official—navigating these dog-and-pony shows while 7 months pregnant (as Jeanine Poggi, senior editor and our lead live-blogger this week, has been doing) is quite possibly the absolute worst. Either way, Ad Age will continue to be here, updating you along the way.
Things kick off with Hulu, which ahead of its presentation announced it has topped 28 million U.S. users. Other Hulu announcements include a new binge-watching ad format, an expanded partnership with Marvel and a move into food originals.
Later today we will hear from Walmart’s Vudu, Vice and Ellen Digital Network. (Speaking of Vice, Ad Age recently sat down with CEO Nancy Dubuc as she approaches her one-year anniversary at the helm.)
In addition to Jeanine Poggi, today’s live-blog includes dispatches from Ilyse Liffreing and Garett Sloane.
Whole lotta cereal
The Ellen Network is going into its third year partnering with Cheerios and is claiming some real sales results. Alana Caldrone Polcsa, senior VP of the Ellen Network, says it has helped sell 9 million boxes of Cheerios (though it's unclear how, exactly, that was measured). —I.L.
Well, well, well
Ellen Digital Network now boasts 27 original series that have generated 1 billion views. Tonight, it announces a new digital series with Lea Michelle called “Well, Well, Well with Lea Michelle,” in which she’ll talk about tips for a healthy mind and body. —I.L.
Celeb spotting at Ellen
Model Ashley Graham appears at Ellen Digital Network's NewFronts presentation to promote the second season of her series “Fearless.” —I.L.
Vice CEO Nancy Dubuc takes the stage to close out Vice’s NewFront presentation. “I have been asked hundreds of times over the past year why I joined Vice,” she says. She cites Vice founder Shane Smith and having fun. But, she adds, it has nothing to do with “adult supervision,” a sly dig at Ad Age’s profile this week.
Bottled water guy
Fyre Festival planner Andy King—yes, “bottled water guy”—gets a big welcome at the Vice NewFront. -- J.P.
A different kind of brand safety
While “brand safety” is certainly a hot topic this week, Vice’s message about the issue is a bit different. It’s imploring advertisers to rethink the practice of blacklisting certain terms like “gay,” “fat,” “pregnant” and “Muslim.” The message from Vice: We want to deliver on your brand-safety goals but in a way where we are not creating bias.
A gender-neutral voice assistant opens the Vice NewFront: “I was created for a future no longer defined by gender.”
The Shane and Nancy Show
Vice serves dim sum at its NewFront at Jing Fong
It's an adventure
At the NewFront for Vudu, Walmart’s streaming video service, most of the presentation focuses on the data Walmart covets to help target ads. But there are also details served up about original content, including a choose-your-own-adventure format that calls to mind Netflix’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” Vudu is partnering with Eko to develop shows with that format, but they don’t have titles or release dates yet.
Vudu says it’s also developing augmented reality and virtual reality content through its in-house studio Spatial&. —G.S.
The final leg of Hulu’s presentation is a formidable who’s-who of stars. First, George Clooney takes the stage to promote his new series “Catch-22.”
“The last time I was at the upfronts was 25 years ago,” he recalls. It was the first season of “E.R.” and he was backstage with Jennifer Aniston. “Friends” was also in its first season, and according to Clooney, Aniston told him, “I don't know if this is going to work.”
Reese Witherspoon is also on hand to talk up her series “Little Fires Everywhere,” plus “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon, who will star as Elizabeth Holmes in a documentary about the CEO of Theranos. “If you need the blood of an upfront virgin... I don’t know what the hell goes on here,” she quips. —J.P.
Mindy's back, back again
“This is my 40th Hulu NewFronts,” Mindy Kaling says as she takes the stage to promote her new limited series “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” “Remember when it was just me, ‘Family Guy’ reruns and that show about a chubby guy who talks to ghosts?”
Kaling says she can’t wait to fill “Four Weddings and a Funeral” with commercials for laundry detergent or anti-depressant medication. “Because I am here for you,” she says. —J.P.
“This is like a rave,” Chrissy Teigen says at Hulu’s NewFront. She is partnering with the platform for food content and other programming. “I approached them about becoming the new Oprah.” Teigen also gives a shout-out to McDonald’s. “I have some thoughts for you,” she says, telling the reps for the fast-food giant in attendance to find her after to discuss. “We have to destroy Burger King.” —J.P.
Hulu introduces “Friends with Benefits,” an ad offering that rewards users with “Easter eggs” within the Hulu platform that unlock hidden rewards. Imagine seeing an icon for a new show that you click on, but it is really a promo for a pair of jeans. —J.P.
Laugh out loud
Ramy Youssef, creator of the Hulu original “Ramy,” takes the stage declaring “I love ads,” adding that Hulu gave him the premium ad-free subscription and he sent it back. “Give me the one with the commercials,” he says he told Hulu.
Youssef adds that people always ask him if he feels pressure to represent and defend Muslims. “I find it harder to defend New Jersey,” he said, talking about the state where he grew up. —J.P.
Hulu users apparently love forensic shows. On average, a binge session of “CSI: Miami” on the platform is five-and-a-half hours. Another fun fact: The median age of a viewer of a “Seinfeld” rerun on cable is 49-years-old, while on Hulu it is 32. —J.P.
A little rap to wake you up
Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA got the audience at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden going this morning, DJ-ing as everyone filed in.