By Sahil Patel
The 2014 Digital Content Newfronts are (finally) over. Comprised of more than 20 presentations spread out across seven weekdays, this year’s DCNF calendar brought forth a who’s who of major and hopeful players in the online video space, previewing what they have up their sleeve for the upcoming year.
VideoInk reached out to a group of individuals in the industry — who attended almost as many presentations as we did — to grab their thoughts on what transpired in the past two weeks.
Here they are:
Who were you most impressed by? Who dropped the ball?
Corey Moss (SVP, Digital & Production, Principato-Young Entertainment):
It’s very difficult to compare the various Newfronts, because they are all so different. Hulu and Crackle had great presentations loaded with talent and new programs, but they are basically TV networks at this point, so it’s unfair to compare them to companies doing short form. In that category, AOL’s event was the most impressive and you can’t argue with their slate, which combines incredible celebrity with proven verticals.
John McCarus (SVP, Content, DigitasLBi):
There were so many well thought-out and important presentations this year — from YouTube to Sony/Crackle (a quiet veteran) to AOL. In the spirit of the Newfronts, I really loved BuzzFeed’s — lots of original video you won’t see anywhere else with a focus on innovation and education — this is such a new space we forget how much we don’t know. People like Ze Frank actually “wrote the book” on web video, having produced his own daily show on YouTube for years. We can all learn so much from him.
Lori H. Schwartz (Managing Partner, StoryTech):
In the end, Newfronts are a “show.” They need to be sexy, Hollywood-esque, fun, and fancy, but at the same time they also need to educate the audience about what you can provide.
Hulu did a great job in communicating in this department. Cecily Strong was phenomenal choice to host. And by having physical stations set up around the theater that provided more information on Hulu’s content and capabilities, the company delivered information about the practical needs that a brand/media buyer is focused on while also having Peter Naylor (Hulu’s head of ad sales) go on stage to speak to some of the company’s bigger numbers.
What were the biggest takeaway(s) from this year’s Newfronts? Any particular theme that stood out?
Paul Kontonis (SVP, Strategy & Sales, Collective Digital Studio):
The Newfronts demonstrated that the original digital video industry is starting to grow up and present a value proposition to advertisers. Even though most of the content was new and not “second seasons” of successful series, there still is tremendous optimism in finding that hit.
I’m pretty sure I heard [Imagine Dragon’s] “On Top of the World” in seven different sizzle reels. Besides that, it was interesting to see several direct agency-to-distributor deals. It also felt a bit like everyone is focusing on the same verticals: fashion, tech, travel, gaming, etc. I wish there was more focus on comedy as a vertical.
Amber J. Lawson (CEO, Comedy Gives Back / Scripted Development & Branded Content, Rigler Creative):
1. Long-form series from AOL and Yahoo. Next: Training an audience used to consuming short form video to watch longer-form content.
2. Platforms defining where they fit in the ecosystem and clarifying how advertisers can buy more effectively. For instance, BuzzFeed talking about consumable video versus shareable. Other standouts include NY Times and CNE.
3. Advertising made easier: Hulu’s Pizza Hut live-ordering ad unit (Editor’s Note: Where users can make a purchase without having to leave the video player — Pizza Hut is the first brand to sign on) and the Maker Offers platform.
The presenters, on the whole, looked and felt “comfortable in their own skin.” There was this sense of confidence that original web video was gaining traction and that the bets everyone is making are starting to pay off. Overall, presenters seemed less threatened by broadcast television and more optimistic that all boats will rise — and quickly.
- Existing audiences rule: Let’s not start from scratch with new ideas from talents without digital credibility.
- Disruption wins: Staking out a unique point of view will pay off. I loved PopSugar’s small, intimate celebration of their brand and unique approach to content creation.
David Freeman (Co-Head of Brand Coverage and Digital Content Groups, CAA):
A large portion of this year’s Newfronts were focused on how a number of digital media companies are going to build their OTT businesses. All of the major players are setting themselves up with programming (via libraries and original programming) to create sustainable advertising and eventually subscription VOD services. Yahoo and AOL are both moving into traditional 22-minute formats. Conde Nast announced The Scene, while Maker launched Maker.tv.
We will be updating this post as more industry thoughts roll in.