National CineMedia revealed intriguing partnerships with Shazam and Maker Studios today at its upfront event near Lincoln Square in New York. The moves underscore how the cinema ads network increasingly sees itself as a digital company.
As part of NCM's update to its longstanding FirstLook platform, the Shazam integration is designed to extend advertisers' reach among smartphone-toting moviegoers. When they observe a sponsor's FirstLook promo via the mobile app, they can consume and share that content while also making a purchase when it comes to e-commerce pitches.
Maker Studios—a video creation company that Disney recently acquired for some $500 million—has inked an agreement with NCM to bring the former's digital programming to the latter's many theaters. Maker's YouTube-based talent roster includes names such as Tessa Violet, Bart Baker, KassemG, Timothy DeLaGhetto and others. And while it's unclear how Maker's videos will integrate into the NCM advertising platform, branded content seems like a safe bet.
And there is a third new content partner, Ideas United, which will work with NCM to assist brands in tapping emerging filmmakers for branded content. Atlanta-based Ideas United has experience working on initiatives for names such as Lenovo, Revlon, AT&T and Adobe.
Additionally, NCM introduced a social-video platform dubbed FirstLookYou, which will appear in booths in select theater lobbies. In a nutshell, moviegoers can make their own 20-second video review of a movie they've just seen, and the souped-up booth lets them share across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
New York-based National CineMedia is the largest in-cinema advertising network with 19,800 screens across thousands of theaters. But it's set to add another 14,200 screens to its network thanks to its plans to buy No. 2 competitor Screenvision for $375 million. So NCM will soon essentially be a Coke without a Pepsi.
Before the purchase was announced in early April, Screenvision held a cross-country upfront-styled series of events, featuring an advanced screening of Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." The showcase appeared in New York, Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, it's the second consecutive year NCM has used its upfront to highlight digital endeavors. In 2013, the cinema ad network unveiled agreements with Twitter and Foursquare.
But the reasons it picks the upfront week over Digital Content NewFronts is simple: NCM wants brands to see its ad metrics more similarly to TV gross-ratings points than digital stats.
"NCM's average unduplicated weekly audience represents a Nielsen rating of 7.4 in adults 18 to 49—that's massive when you compare it to the average of 1.6 for a broadcast program or 0.9 for the top 20 cable networks in primetime," claimed Cliff Marks, president of sales and marketing with NCM. "We hold our event during TV upfront week because we believe that is our rightful place as one of America’s highest rated video networks."