From Livestreaming Partnerships to Celebrity Creators, Here’s What to Expect at This Year’s NewFronts

An insider's look at the 6th annual event

Nearly 40 publishers will present new content packages, audience insights and more at the sixth annual event.
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With 37 digital publishers presenting everything from new content packages to insights into their audiences’ habits, the Digital Content NewFronts is about to enter its sixth year. Digital video ad spending is expected to grow to $13.23 billion in 2017, and the two weeks of NewFronts events offer media buyers the chance to kick the proverbial tires on new publishers’ reach.

“This year, we’ll probably see less about the new talent companies are working with and more about the scale and audience these established players have created,” said Alex Stone, Horizon Media’s vp of digital investment. Though a handful of presenters including BuzzFeed, Yahoo and Fullscreen opted out of this year’s events, Stone thinks their departures have more to do with internal issues, such as upcoming mergers or shifting priorities.

“Digital video publishers, this year more than ever, have learned how to balance a good sales presentation in the NewFront/Upfront format,” added Anna Bager, svp and gm for mobile and video at the IAB. “The digital and linear spaces are converging, with presenters like Disney with Maker, CNN and Turner, and Hulu dominating the streaming and OTT world. We’ve become more individual as consumers and that’s where the industry is going, too.”

Here’s a look at four key digital publishers the industry will be paying attention to this year and what to expect from their presentations.

Awesomeness TV

AwesomenessTV and Awesomeness Films are two sides of the same Gen Z-targeted entertainment company. ATV’s community of creators, like Meghan Rienks and Liza Koshy, collectively count over 150 million total subscribers. With premium content airing on Verizon’s go90 platform as well as films rolling out in theaters across the country, Awesomeness has a broad spectrum of content to show.

Earlier this year, co-founder Brian Robbins announced he would be leaving the company. Verizon and ATV also opted in February not to move forward with a premium mobile-streaming service; the companies decided to refocus content for go90.

“We’ve been laser-focused on Gen Z since we started five years ago,” said Brett Bouttier, president of AwesomenessTV. “Understanding this new landscape can be challenging, but we … can help brands and marketers reach them and get it right.”

Stat: 800 million monthly video views, plus ability to create long-form content and feature films for wide distribution.

Challenge: Keeping fickle Gen Z audiences entertained and engaged.

Studio71

In a break from tradition, Studio71 will offer its NewFront as a streaming-only event. The target audience, naturally, will be media and advertising partners, and for each stream, Studio71 will make a contribution to WE Charity, an organization that encourages kids to create social change.

A multichannel network that lives on YouTube, Studio71 works with popular influencers like The Rock, Lilly Singh, and Rhett and Link to connect them with partners for branded content and further distribution. The company has been trying to sidestep ad safety concerns by selling media directly to buyers through DoubleClick Bid Manager.

Matt Seiler, president of marketing solutions for Studio71, said the company’s goal for its NewFronts presentation will be to keep the pitch simple and clean: “Our creators make must-see TV for a non-TV viewing audience.”

Stat: 7 billion monthly video views maintained across 1,200 channels.

Challenge: Providing a safe and direct transaction for ad messages in a YouTube environment.

Twitter

This is Twitter’s first year at the NewFronts, where it plans to showcase original content development and tout future publishing relationships.

Twitter users tuned into 800 hours of live programming from 400 live events in Q1 of this year, up from 600 hours in Q4 of 2016. Thirty-three percent of unique viewers of live video in Q4 were outside the U.S., and about 50 percent of viewers were under the age of 25.

The platform’s live video partnerships over the past year ranged from sports to politics to news programs from content creators like Cheddar, a news startup that focuses on the tech and finance industries.

“We provide some of the best live and premium content around the world,” said Matt Derella, Twitter’s global vp of client partnerships and brand strategy. “We’ll show advertisers how we can simulcast TV programs, stream original content, and pair those with live conversations.”

Stat: In Q1 of 2017, Twitter saw a 14 percent YOY rise in daily active users.

Challenge: Unlocking greater and consistent ad growth given Twitter’s considerable reach while maintaining a safe environment in the realm of trolls.

YouTube/Google

After months of intense criticism over measurement and brand-safety issues, Google and YouTube’s combined Brandcast will be a NewFronts presentation that few buyers will want to miss. Tara Levy, vp of agency and media solutions for Google, said the event will mostly focus on the Google Preferred program, which offers the top 5 percent of channels across multiple content areas, and includes popular creators like Joey Graceffa and Tanya Burr.

“Google Preferred is now being considered alongside traditional TV buys as opposed to being left for after NewFronts,” Levy noted.

The presentation will remind brands of YouTube’s wide reach and influence as the granddaddy of digital video. As evidence, YouTube is pointing out that 90 percent of its six second pre-roll ads drove lift/recall by 40 percent (which it will announce it’s introducing to Google Preferred partners).

Stat: YouTube attracts over 1 billion users, which represents one-third of all web inhabitants.

Challenge: Improving brand-safety concerns based on feedback from partners and agencies while continuing to be more transparent on measurement issues.

This story first appeared in the May 1, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.