Inside look at NBCU's first Digital NewFront

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

Last night’s NBCU NewFront felt like Willy Wonka had built a social TV factory. While Occupy protests took over downtown, an intimate crowd packed into Skylight West on 36th Street and 10th Ave to enjoy NBCU’s first ever Digital NewFront. The first part of the night was a fun presentation hosted by NBCU talent and execs followed by a carnival of social TV (that included creating a video of yourself within The Voice or a Weather Channel broadcast) and interactive digital displays of the media company’s sixty different digital offerings. Here’s an inside look on the big announcements, including interviews with NBCU Chairman of Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media, Lauren Zalaznick and EVP of Digital Media Sales, Peter Naylor.

The big social TV announcements at the NewFront:

Universal Games Network (UGN), a social gaming platform across all NBCU properties:

The platform was originally designed by USA Network’s digital team and will be launched at the end of 2012. We’re excited to see what properties and brands are leveraged for this and if there will be a lot of similarities to USA’s Hashtag Killer:

The white-labeled solution will allow fans to play games, engage and consume content, amass reward points and redeem them for real and virtual goods across all NBCU gaming properties. Facebook Connect integration will enable fans to challenge friends in tournament style games. It will offer advertisers a one-stop shop to reach the ever-growing and coveted gaming audience across the entire NBCU digital footprint representing 115 million fans.

“Oxygen Connect” to launch in time for “The Glee Project” Season 2

Oxygen is preparing for the season two launch of it’s biggest show, The Glee Project. Instead of just launching a social TV strategy they’ve ramped up with a new social platform. Here are the details:

“Oxygen Connect” will provide fans with a platform that connects them directly to the series contenders over the course of the entire competition. With a premise of “earning to experience,” fans will have the opportunity to engage with the content and earn points toward more personal experiences such as live chats with contenders, and more.

Bravo Announces First-ever Location Based Social Media Experience for “Around the World in 80 Plates”

Andy Cohen and Lisa Hsia were in house as Bravo launched a new location based social experience for their “Around the World in 80 Plates” show. According to the release, “Bravo and Infiniti have exclusively partnered on a location-based social contest that encourages fans to tweet #80plateschallenge in order to unlock 10 secret locations across the US through an interactive map on and on Bravo mobile.” Fans will be encouraged to go to auto brand Infiti’s Facebook or Twitter to uncover secret tips

NBC Politics will also launch an iPad app May 3rd with an interactive map feature. You can read the full announcement here.
NBCU Chairman Lauren Zalaznick’s interview with Lost Remote on social TV:

Lost Remote: Why did NBCU decide to have a NewFront this year?

Lauren Zalaznick: NBC Universal really owns the space, the most original content a huge digital platform, number three in entertainment and we deserver to finally showcase all the things that we’ve been working for years and years, for each individual brand, and in particular since the Comcast NBC Universal merger, the incredible wealth of assets that wield themselves to be social and mobile and digital all based on premium original content.

LR: Why is social TV important to NBC?

LZ: Social TV is the way that our viewers watch. It’s the way that our digital users what to consume content and the whole being of social TV brings it all together with each individual brand’s social…that brings live viewing experiences together.

It’s a bit difficult to hear but you can watch the interview here:

NBCU EVP of Digital Sales Peter Naylor’s interview on social TV:

Lost Remote: Why did NBC decide to have a NewFront this year?

Peter Naylor: When Digitas announced that they were going to organize a lot of the websites that were creating digital content, it seemed to us that we should have a voice in this. While the other guys are trying to grab TV dollars, we try to counter-program a little bit, to borrow a TV phrase and to let people that we’re a digital powerhouse in addition to being a TV powerhouse. Why shouldn’t digital buyers consider NBC, when you think our wide expanse of opportunities, why shouldn’t we get their mind share and their share of wallet, when they’re trying to go after our share of wallet for television. It seemed like a natural thing for us to jump in.

LR: WHy do you think social TV plays an important role in this whole mix?

PN: Well I think social TV just makes television stronger. All the gross ratings points that are out there get activated and amplified. When they combine first screen with second and third screen. TV has always been social, now that we’ve got the hardware, i.e. the smart screen, the software, otherwise known as the social networks, it’s all converged to make social TV really just explode. This is no fad, it’s a trend. TV has always been social, now it’s super social.

You can watch the low quality video interview here:

Social TV for brands is here to stay.

If you’re interested in more video, check out Naylor’s presentation to the crowd here, where he discussed President Obama’s involvement in their “Viggle-enabled,” broadcast of To Kill A Mockingbird, and the sizzle reel they played at the beginning showcase their complete digital footprint. A popular theme that has continue throughout the upfronts and NewFronts is scripted social platforms to get fans hooked when not watching the show. Read our interview with Kay Madati (who was at NBCU’s NewFront) to learn more about Facebook’s approach to the “before” and “after” a show airs. Also, read about the recent MTV upfront where they also announced a big scripted social platform for Teen Wolfe.