With splashy OTT offerings from Disney, Apple, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal about to roll out, Facebook Watch execs touted its massive reach in the streaming space with a daily global audience of 140 million.
The publisher was among a quieter Day 2 lineup Thursday at NewFronts West in L.A. that included podcast hub Art19, AR and VR maven Unity and music platform Vevo.
The platform created the Facebook Watch portal for its original series like Red Table Talk Show and Sorry for Your Loss as “a digital living room” so viewers could have a collective experience, said Nichole Delansky, the platform’s entertainment industry manager. “People comment eight times more during a watch party than if they watched alone.”
The social media giant, which showed an extended trailer for its upcoming podcast-based thriller Limetown starring Jessica Biel, will invest in more new content (though no projects were announced during the conference) and more features that allow fans to watch content together, like parties and premieres, according to Delansky. She also led a discussion with pro soccer players Sydney Leroux Dwyer (Facebook Watch’s Bad as a Mother) and Lindsey Horan (Generations).
On Day 1, NewFronts West—the L.A. version of the annual New York NewFronts held in late April/early May— separated itself from its East Coast counterpart with a rousing performance by a brass band and a bassoon solo from The Office star Rainn Wilson. First day’s sessions for media, brand, ad agency and marketing execs included BBC News, Fuse Media, Ellen Digital Network and Innovid.
For the closing day of its second year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s event continued to blend the dog and pony-style presentations of a typical upfront with fireside chats and panels covering industry issues, particularly mission-driven programs in line with the event’s “take a stand” and “relationships matter” themes.
IAB execs said they built the schedule after getting feedback from last year’s participants and organizing partners, looking for more high-level discussion in the lineup and more interaction between attendees.
“The market needs senior-level conversation and networking, as well as a forum for being introduced to new ideas and innovation in order to encourage its evolution,” IAB president and COO Patrick Dolan said via email. “This year’s event has been crafted to meet this very specific market need.”
However, attendee reaction to the new format was somewhat mixed. Some of the gathered execs didn’t seem to take to it—second day attendance was noticeably down from the first—while others supported the change.
“I can hear a sales pitch anytime,” said one agency exec, noting that she’d already been in touch with many of the gathering’s major presenters about their upcoming programming for possible client tie-ins.
NewFronts West also bumped up the conference on the calendar a month earlier than last year’s event so that deals between participants could potentially gel in time for the busy fourth quarter.
The conference was heavier on newsy announcements and entertainment on Wednesday than Thursday. So much so that host-emcee Kalen Allen made up for the lack of onstage pizzazz at one point on the second day by leading a sing-along for anyone in the audience with a September birthday.
In the absence of bigger names and announcements, Jukin Media’s puppy-powered workspace, with a crop of adorable baby dogs promoting its Pet Collective brand, was a big Day 2 draw, with a steady stream of foot traffic and much furry cuddling.
Among the other Day 2 highlights:
Jeffrey Silverman of Samba TV, delivering on his promise not to wonk up the place too much, detailed his company’s research on TV viewers through a lens that reflects the country’s multicultural makeup. Existing studies “are often deficient in representing the true, modern U.S. population,” he said.
Samba’s work allows advertisers to drill deeper and target better by using a “near perfect” match to the U.S. Census, looking at gender, age, ethnicity, income and other identifiers, and partnering with TV manufacturers like Philips, Sony and Toshiba.
“People have been talking about this for decades,” said Silverman, director of data science and analytics. “Having a fully representative research panel is critical to brands.”
Calling social video “an amazing place to build deep relationships,” Tubular Labs co-founder Allison Stern said there haven’t been reliable ways for advertisers to measure the digital viewing audience.
“You deserve the full and accurate audience picture,” she said. “We’re tackling this head on.”
She announced a Tubular product currently in beta testing, developed with publishing partners that include Vice, Buzzfeed, Group Nine and Ellen Digital Network, that tracks engagement and time spent on video viewing across social platforms.
“Technology has made audiences global, mobile and social, but the current measurement products are country-specific, often missing mobile, and are seriously lacking in social coverage—leading to confusion and locked economics for online video,” said Rob Gabel, the company’s founder-CEO. The new measurement aims for “the same transparency in global social video that the industry already has for radio, TV and websites.”