9 Reasons the NewFronts Didn’t Get TV Dollars Last Year

And 9 reasons why they will this year

Last spring, some of the Web’s biggest players, including Yahoo, AOL, Hulu and YouTube, took a page out of the glamorous TV world by launching the Digital Content NewFronts.

But while the NewFronts put a new stake in the ground and were lauded for surfacing digital video productions, the week got mixed reviews in terms of getting advertisers excited about the medium’s possibilities. Indeed, the NewFronts didn’t suddenly cause every brand to dump all their spending into online video, according to numerous buyers, sellers and programmers contacted by Adweek, which is the official media partner of DCNF in partnership with the IAB. There are several reasons why that was the case last year, but just as many reasons to be hopeful this year. Here's our takeaway:

The Challenges:

1) The industry is in a weird Catch-22 moment. The quality of Web video isn’t perceived as on par with TV yet, but to put the money needed into online video creative, you need more ad dollars. The result: Many companies have been stuck in limbo.

Photo: Getty Images

2) Most Web video companies don’t own their own shows. They’re sharing content with lots of other parties. That means, no syndication money, no DVD sales and no foreign distribution (that’s the only way that companies like Vuguru can even justify creating Web shows with high production values).

3) The TV buyers got involved. AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong told us that the NewFronts were so successful that they got many of the industry’s biggest spenders involved. That flood of intertest combined with the learning curve on the digital video environment actually served to slow things down, he theorized.

4) Veteran TV buyers didn’t know what to do with Web video, and many still don't. They can’t find it, don’t understand it and struggle to compare it to TV shows. If they even go to the NewFronts, that is. 

Photo: Getty Images

And let's face it, Web video's most popular shows look weird to the 40+ crowd.

Nice Peter on Youtube

5) Online video has become too cheap, even though quality pre-roll is very limited. Upfronts need scarcity.

6) There hasn’t been a breakout hit. Sure, Netflix has been busy churning out quality shows like House of Cards a new season of Arrested Development on May 26, but no Web show has generated the watercooler buzz or even Twitter chatter on the scale of a Walking Dead or Downton Abbey—at least in the circles that most media and Hollywood execs run in.

Downton Abbey

7) The metrics are imperfect, and the modeling buyers use tells them not to buy Web video. According to buyers and sellers, the efforts Nielsen and comScore have made toward bringing TV-like measurement to the Web have paid off, but more is needed. Raw view numbers are becoming meaningless. Another problem: the media mix marketing tools buyers use from companies like Millward Brown aren't good at evaluating Web video, and can actually discourage folks from moving more dollars.

8) While many YouTube channels are huge, no single YouTube show has emerged as a must-buy. Nothing really broke out last year from the 100 funded channels, at least in the way traditional hits are defined. 

Wigs on YouTube

9) Despite the broadcast nets ratings problems, people still watch tons of TV.

The Opportunities:

1) House of Cards has been eye opening to many. Though it’s not ad supported, Netflix’s hit has made buyers think differently about delivery mechanisms and the medium’s quality.

Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

2) TV buyers have kids who never look up from their iPads.