NewFronts Begin: New York Times Pitches a Surge of Digital Video
The New York Times has bolstered its digital-video lineup with a slate of shows starring its editors and columnists as well as the series "Verbatim," where members of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe read legal transcripts word-for-word.
The Times plans to show off the programming at its NewFront presentation in New York on Monday morning, where it also plans to pitch advertisers on a redesign of its video hub, which is being reorganized under 14 channels and adding a native-ad product called Branded Playlists.
Acura is the initial sponsor of the Times' new video hub.
The Times has invested significantly in video in the last year, doubling staff to about 65 and carving out a separate department that makes videos for advertisers. Monday's NewFronts presentation, the company's first, is the Times' chance to showcase these efforts, according to Rebecca Howard, general manager-video.
"For us it's a branding exercise," she said of the NewFronts. "We have a new team coming out strong."
The NewFronts, which begin on Monday, are digital publishers' take on the annual TV upfronts, where networks present their upcoming seasons and buyers start negotiating for ad time.
The Times will highlight popular print and digital features -- like "Modern Love," "36 Hours" and "Bits" -- that it has translated to video. A monthly show will have food columnist Mark Bittman cooking alongside an influential chef. And "Verbatim" will see actors from Upright Citizens Brigade reenact legal proceedings, often to comedic effect. In the first episode, a lawyer argues about the definition of a photocopier.
"We have invested a lot in video, with more than 30 series on NYTimes.com," she said.
The 14 channels on the new video hub are U.S. and Politics, International, Opinion, Times Documentaries, Business, Technology, Culture, Style, Health, Food, Travel, Sports, Real Estate and Science.
In March, the Times posted more than 430 videos on its site, up from 270 a year prior. Drawing viewers to digital video has become a chief priority among publishers and the new video hub will help attract more visitors, according to Ms. Howard, although she declined to say how many views Times videos get now.
The Times currently seeks viewers partly by posting its videos beyond its own site, on large web portals like AOL and Yahoo as well as through NDN, a video player that publishers embed on their sites. The Times shares ad revenue with these portals.
The company has also partnered with Vimeo to develop original branded-video content for marketers.
Set-top devices like Roku and Apple TV are next, according to Ms. Howard. She said a New York Times channel will likely appear on one of these devices by the fourth quarter.
The Times is looking, too, for ways to distribute its longer-form videos to cable channels, which could potentially draw additionally revenue from video. An actual cable channel is not the "immediate future," she added. (A cable channel called Discovery Times, a joint venture between the Times and Discovery Communications, began in 2003 but only lasted until 2008.)
"We're in this place now where we feel we're ready to go out to that multiplatform world," She said.
Meredith Kopit Levien, exec VP-advertising at the Times, said advertisers will have a handful of different ways to buy ads around these videos, including pre-roll. Branded Playlists will collect marketers' video content in a library that visitors can find among the Times' editorial videos. Sponsored videos will be clearly marked as advertising, according to Ms. Kopit Levien.
"As long as we stick with our labeling, the sky is the limit on what we can produce for a marketer," she said.
The Times has an internal studio of about a dozen people that produces content on behalf of brands. "They're doing production work there and working with outside production companies," Mr. Kopit-Levien said.
Sotheby's International Realty is the first advertiser to use this product, with a campaign that takes viewers inside Sotheby properties.
Ms. Kopit Levien wouldn't say how much the Times charges for these videos but said they probably earn the highest ad rates on the site.
Branded Playlists are part of the Times' embrace of native advertising, which began in January when it rolled out Paid Posts. During its fourth-quarter earnings call last week, Times CEO Mark Thompson said the native-ad product "launched very successfully."
Ad revenue at the Times grew 3.4% in the first quarter of this year, breaking a losing streak of 13 straight quarters of losses in ad sales. Total revenue rose 2.6% to $390.4 million. But executives cautioned that ad revenue may flag in the second quarter compared with the prior year.