The biggest event of the year for digital video, the Digital Content NewFronts, just wrapped its sixth season in New York and this year more than ever, digital video publishers have learned how to craft an effective sales presentation in the NewFront/Upfront format. The digital and linear spaces are converging, with presenters like Hulu dominating the streaming and OTT world.
Over the last two weeks, 32 digital publishers presented everything from new content packages to insights into their audiences’ habits. And with digital video ad spending increasing exponentially, the two weeks of NewFront events offered media buyers and sellers a marketplace to get to know each other on a grand scale. The industry appetite for digital video is also growing–in a recent ad buying study, media buyers said they planned to allocate 40 percent of original digital video budgets at this year’s NewFronts, up from 37 percent last year.
This increase underscores the strength of the NewFronts as a critical industry event where marketers and media buyers find inspiration and make real deals—all driving even more prosperity across the original digital video landscape.
It also gave the industry a glimpse of the technology, trends and content that will shape the conversation around digital video for the next 12 months.
Among the game changers: Brand safety and trust matter—a lot. During the 2016 NewFronts, everyone from PopSugar to AOL announced new VR content and VR-designated studios. This year, brand safety pushed shiny objects to the back burner. The New York Times set the tone early on, with a presentation called “Truth + Dare” which showcased the many ways Times journalists work to find the truth, and dared brand marketers to use that same momentum when they think about the best ways to tell their own stories with The Times.
Throughout the marketplace, the BBC, Condé Nast, Disney and others echoed this theme of “trust and safety.” Even YouTube, which attracts more than 1 billion hours of viewing every day, used its time on stage to talk less about scale and instead highlighted how it is improving brand safety, while continuing to be more transparent on measurement. Across the board, the message was consistent: There’s no risk to your brand when working directly with a publisher.
Live video is everywhere. Twitter made a splash at its first NewFront event, announcing that another 16 sports, news and entertainment companies will soon be livestreaming content on its platform, as it attempts to be a go-to source for around-the-clock live content. It also announced an exclusive deal with Bloomberg for the first 24/7 breaking news network that will be global, live, social and streaming.
Meanwhile, Hulu announced it will bring live TV to its subscribers in 2017, including sports, events and news. These new deals offer cord-cutters, cord-nevers and mobile viewers new ways to receive massive amounts of premium live content previously only available through linear TV.
Mobile and OTT are the pillars of digital video and it’s clear they’re at an inflection point. What we’ve been calling digital video has now become a completely mainstream consumer medium. This is largely thanks to mobile, and more recently OTT. Over-the-top video viewing in the living room is attracting all ages and demographics and everybody wants to be in on the mobile video craze.
Millions and millions of people now watch digital video in both these places every day and advertisers and content creators need to be there or they risk fading from the viewing frenzy.
Of course distribution is key. Creating great content is one thing, but will anyone see it? How is your content going to be distributed and how will it be a success? This year digital distribution platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter were an essential part of the conversation at every NewFronts presentation, noted as a key way to reach the audiences advertisers are trying to target.
Social platforms are now primary distribution partners for digital video of all kinds. For example, Refinery29, a 2017 NewFronts presenter, says its network of social accounts and video distribution platforms reaches more than 500 million consumers globally.
It’s too early to tell exactly how many people attended this year’s marketplace and how many deals were done. But based on inbound participation and our preliminary estimates, it’s clear that this year’s NewFronts was bigger and more relevant than ever. We saw record attendance in an environment where marketers can pursue premium digital content and brands can be more involved in the process of content production—and that’s a win for everyone.
Anna Bager (@annabager) is senior vp and general manager, Mobile and Video at the IAB.