In contrast with Condé Nast Entertainment's flashy NewFronts presentations of years past, the company's fourth go-round, which took place at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday afternoon, was a relatively staid affair. (It was also a speedy one: The 45-minute run time garnered murmurs of approval from the audience.) The subdued mood may have been a nod to CNE's new tagline, "Where video grows up," which flashed onscreen repeatedly throughout the event.
CNE president Dawn Ostroff presented the company's offerings as the next generation of digital video, which, she explained, "was still crawling out of a sea of user-generated content" when Condé Nast made its NewFronts debut four years ago. Thanks to CNE's foresight, she continued, the company has been able to develop higher-quality content than many of its competitors. (To wit, over the past year, the company reached 2.8 billion views, doubled engagement and scored multiple Oscar and Emmy nods—and wins.)
While nearly every NewFronts presenter is making a push for millennials, Ostroff described CNE's target audience as a more cultured and affluent subset of Gen Y—namely, "the ones with jobs." The female version, she said, "is at a time in her life when Mexico means Tulum and not Cancun," while for her male counterpart, "drinks with friends now involves craft beers, not a keg." As such, CNE's slate of programming for the coming year continues to be heavy on fashion, food, travel and other luxury lifestyle topics, as well as celebrity cameos.
In an effort to support up-and-coming talent, CNE is launching three new incubator programs: Project Her, which pairs female filmmakers with mentors; The Big Script, which helps young directors turn buzzy scripts into mini films; and Creators in Residence, which supports the development of millennial filmmakers.
Of course, no 2016 NewFronts event would be complete without a dose of virtual reality. On that front, Condé Nast previewed its scripted VR series, Invisible, created in partnership with Samsung and Jaunt.
Content aside, the bigger focus of CNE's presentation seemed to be its growing distribution and data capabilities. Ostroff announced a distribution partnership with Comcast and an expanded relationship with Amazon (which already streams two CNE series, The New Yorker Presents and The Fashion Fund). CNE is also relaunching The Scene, its 2-year-old online video platform, as a mobile-first network with a new app that allows for better social sharing. CNN's Great Big Story and the NBA will join The Scene's 17 existing media partners.
CNE head of sales Lisa Valentino appeared onstage to tout the company's investment in data and new branded content offerings. Thanks to Condé Nast's acquisition of 1010data last summer, CNE has been able to connect its massive store of behavioral data—it collects over 1 trillion data points from viewers every month, said Valentino—to transactional data, allowing the company and its advertisers to track millennials' buying habits. CNE also recently debuted a new native ad product, Thumbstoppers, that tailors branded video to specific social platforms. This fall, Valentino added, CNE in partnership with Simple Reach will launch a dashboard that tracks branded video content performance across all distribution outlets.