Digital Video NewFronts

Twitter Is Ready to Pitch Advertisers at Digital NewFronts

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Twitter's NFL games were a strong foundation for its digital video programming.
Twitter's NFL games were a strong foundation for its digital video programming. Credit: Twitter

Twitter is making a formal entry into the world of digital video with a NewFronts event this year.

The messaging-media company announced it president a lineup of digital shows present advertisers in May, the first time it will join the annual Digital Content NewFronts.

"We have made major investments in video over the past few years, and being able to present the breadth, depth and quality of that content at the NewFronts is the ultimate culmination of those efforts," said Matthew Derella, Twitter's VP of global revenue and operations

Twitter will be competing with premium video platforms like Hulu, old rival Facebook and newcomer Snapchat, among others, which all have invested in building online viewerships. Twitter's biggest content play came last year when it signed a deal with National Football League to stream 10 Thursday night games.

The company has called that partnership a success, citing an average of 3.5 million views for each game. But those digital impressions are not quite comparable to what TV can offer. The average viewer per minute, closer to the standard TV metric, was closer to 300,000 people.

Twitter used its steady content stream to craft advertising packages alongside the NFL, and had been asking for up to $8 million from brands.

Of course, the ads could cost less depending on the level of commitment.

Twitter's digital video program has evolved out of partnerships it has been building for years with sports leagues, TV networks and other entertainment brands. Under those efforts, the content partners post videos to the platform and Twitter serves pre-roll commercials before they play.

With the NFL games, Twitter started delivering commercials within the streams. These video ads are seen as higher quality than much online pre-roll, with better completion rates at greater length, more like TV.

Recently, Twitter began adopting more measurement tools to give advertisers guarantees around how many ads are seen, by what audiences, and for how long. Twitter worked with Dentsu Aegis on its guaranteed ad delivery in a pilot program. Advertisers increasingly wary of digital metrics have been demanding these kinds of assurances and the ability to verify.

Twitter's success during NewFronts season will depend on its planned shows, and whether it can recapture the NFL's streaming rights. Those talks are still ongoing, but Twitter feels like it's in a good position, according an ad executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"If Twitter can get NFL again this year, that's a big thing," the ad exec said.

In the past year, Twitter has shown Oscars red carpet live streams, daily Bloomberg News programs, a basketball talk show and BuzzFeed election coverage.

Twitter does face stiff competition, however, as Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat all develop their digital video platform. Snapchat, for instance, has deals with NBC Universal, A&E Networks, BuzzFeed, Vice and others to create mobile video shows.

Digital video is also not a certain formula for success. Look no further than Yahoo to see how online content doesn't always set the world on fire. In fact, on Thursday, Yahoo announced it would forego a central NewFronts pitch to ad buyers in favor of smaller road shows that will come to advertisers' offices.

Yahoo had been a regular at New York City NewFronts, but its biggest video ambitions never met expectations.

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