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NewFronts Returning With Packed Lineup

18 events planned over five-day span; NBCU out, CBS, Zynga in

If you’re someone who works in the Web video business, the week of April 29 is not shaping up to be a good time for you to make any plans. That’s because the Digital Content NewFronts are back for a second round, and this time all 18 of them are scheduled over a five-day period. Let the webisode reels and open bars begin.

Founding partners AOL, Digitas, Google, Hulu, Microsoft and Yahoo are all returning, planning elaborate presentations to the digital and TV buying communities, as are a dozen other brands hoping to snag some TV dollars before the traditional tube-centric upfront season kicks off. Other returnees include Vevo and Digital Broadcasting Group.

Interestingly, while several digital brands are not returning this year, including Federated Media and Pop Sugar, a couple of print-centric media companies are on board for NewFronts 2013. This year's list includes The Wall Street Journal, which kicks things off with a presentation at 8 a.m. on April 29, as well as Condé Nast (Wednesday, May 1 at 2 p.m.). Both companies have made a bigger push into video as of late, though are hardly hotbeds for original scripted Web shows.

Also crashing the party this year is The Weather Company, which will make its pitch on April 29. (Last year, the NewFronts spanned three weeks).

Meanwhile, the most conspicuous absence this year is NBCUniversal, which was the lone broadcast/cable giant to push its digital wares last year in a stand-alone event. This year, although there was said to be some internal debate at NBCU, each network will incorporate digital into its own upfront presentation later in the spring.

Replacing NBCU this year is CBS Interactive, which will put forth a digital presentation that could focus on everything from CBS.com’s handful of originals to CNET. However, for the most part it’s not shocking that the broadcast world is mostly sitting out the NewFront season, considering how little Fox, the CW and ABC bother to program on the Web.

The other eye-opening change to this year’s schedule? The addition of Zynga, which doesn’t program Web video, is struggling mightily and has been slow to even fully embrace the ad business. Zynga has landed the unenviable Friday night time slot on May 3.

Disney Interactive is back for a second NewFront (last year the company touted its moms and kids fare, not ABC), as is Alloy Digital. Also returning is Digitas, which founded the original NewFront back in 2008. While the Interactive Advertising Bureau is taking over logistical duties this year, the agency will host an event of its own on Thursday, May 2.

Other NewFront newbies include Sony’s Crackle, which has frequently wavered in its commitment to original programming; Buzz Media, known for brands like Brooklyn Vegan and Egotastic; and Web video pioneer Blip. 

It will be interesting to see how the jam-packed schedule unfolds. Buyers' patience and physical endurance will surely be tested (consider that during the traditional broadcast upfront week, buyers face less than 10 events). Yahoo, CBS, Google and Vevo have each landed coveted nighttime slots, when entertainment and drinks are more apt to flow. Google’s Brandcast event last year at the Beacon Theater in New York was far and away a standout, featuring Jay-Z , Flo Rida and Neon Trees.

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