"It won't be like, 'Let us show you everything and let us sell
it to you right now,'" said Adam Shlachter, managing partner of
Group M's MEC Global.
Rather, he said, "portals and big publishers are trying to get
people talking bigger, earlier about digital content."
An upfront for digital video is well-timed, as traditional TV
viewing fragments. While more people are watching overall, the
biggest shows reach smaller audiences. Meanwhile, rising TV-ad
costs have marketers looking to digital to lower media
Web companies are betting that original content will send
dollars their way. AOL and Yahoo have renewed their commitments to
content, Hulu is increasing its investment in original shows, and
Google's YouTube is pouring $100 million into 96 original channels
just now getting off the ground. Last week, the NewFronts picked up
key new partners, including Vevo, Digital Broadcast Group and NBC
Universal, which wants to draw attention to iVillage, Fandango,
XFinity and Daily Candy.
Stitching the confederation together required some diplomacy.
Publicis Groupe 's Digitas spearheaded
the NewFronts -- would execs from competitive agencies attend an
event co-founded by a rival? The answer appears to be yes, in part
because the other founding partners reached out to holding
companies to let them know that Digitas would have no bigger role
than producing its own "NewFronts" event April 26. Talks are on to
enlist other agencies in NewFronts planning going forward.
Then there were the disparate agendas of the participants
themselves: Who gets to have an upfront of their own and who's
merely a component of another's pitch? YouTube, for example, wants
to present its partners exclusively but won't have time to
highlight its channels in its 90-minute presentation. So can
individual channels hold their own events? Only if they fit the
criteria for participation: having exclusive original content and a
history of distributing it at scale. That rules out some
high-profile production companies that might like their own
showcases but won't block participation from some indie startups
such as Revision 3, Break.com or My Damn Channel. They haven't
signed on but are considering it.
The five founding partners agreed to kick in $45,000 to cover
costs of promotion and the website. They also have veto power over
other presenters and "market partners," which pay $10,000 to have
their events included on the official schedule and promotional
All of them want to make news at their upfronts and are closely
guarding what programming they plan to unveil. Some want to make
overt pitches against TV. "We're going way ahead of the broadcast
upfronts and really challenging the brands to shift the dollars to
where the eyeballs are today, not where they were yesterday," said
Vevo sales chief David Kohl.
Others are more focused one another. "We already produce nine of
the top 10 shows on the internet," said Mickie Rosen, Yahoo senior
VP-head of content. "We have more unique views on our shows than
Hulu has on its site. It's our chance to retell that story."
Yet the biggest question is whether web video should be
emulating TV at all. The best thing Universal McCann
Chief Media Officer David Cohen could say about "taking a legacy
model and applying it to digital" is that it "isn't the most
The reality is that conversations about online advertising over
the next year would be better in the fall, when agencies have a
keener sense of their clients' budgets and marketing priorities.
Conducting talks in the spring, as traditional TV does, assumes
that the seller has enough leverage to make the deals happen ahead
of time. "If there is true scarcity we need to put our money down,
but we want to make sure it's real and not fictitious," said Mr.
Yet content providers feel the imperative to simply get in the
heads of agency folk and brands before they spend $9 billion on
broadcast TV. "The media and advertising community around this time
of year is in a mindset of planning billions of dollars for the
next 12 months," said Hulu sales chief JP Colaco. "It's important
to all of us that we get in front of these folks in a concerted way
and talk about our product."