AOL’s Armstrong Reflects on NewFront Season

Predicts an active market for Web video versus TV

AOL's exhibited revenue growth along with a solid upticks for its display ad business during its Q1 earnings call this morning. That came on the heels of a NewFront presentation last week during which the portal rolled out 15 high profile shows, some of which are already catching on, and even nabbed a major ad commitment during the event. CEO Tim Armstrong grabbed a few minutes to talk with Adweek about the video market, display and the portal's ongoing turnaround.

You guys announced a deal during your NewFront last week. Was this a special case or will we see more of this as the rest of the NewFront/upfront season plays out?

We think interest level is really high. We had 17 meetings with agencies before the NewFront and we’re in active negotiations with some folks right now. There’s a lot going on. We’re following up with a road show this week. I think there is pretty strong scarcity for quality video. I’m not sure how it translates.


Do you see buyers pitting TV and the Web against each other in negotiations?

I spoke to a top TV buying exec, somebody really senior yesterday, and he said that Web content and TV content could be smushed together at this point. His take was that the lowest quality TV and lowest quality Web isn’t going to survive. It’ll be the lower quality cable stuff that takes a dive. I dont’ know if we’ll get evaluated against TV. I know that the MediaOcean partnership lets people look at both things together. I do think CPGs, Detroit, they’re all looking at moving TV dollars. I’m not sure if it will be explicit or implicit [as they negotiate against us]. Another interest thing I heard, and I didn’t fact check it, was that this past season, no network shows took off. All the new breakout hits were on cable. And this one executive sees the same kind of dynamic happening, [from] network to cable to Internet.

AOL saw some nice growth in display, though third party network growth did decelerate. What’s driving that?

With display, I think there are a few big dynamics. We’ve made investments in three things. We’ve invested in strong content brands, premium brands and video. And those are things advertisers want. So we’re picking up share. And we’re investing in our ad tech stack, skating to where the puck is going there. And our CPMs went up there year over year and our reserve inventory is up year over year.

Speaking of premium publishers, how’s HuffPo selling?

Well, we’re growing our reserve pricing, but we’re also adding a lot of inventory. So there’s an opportunity to sell more reserve. It’s really become a monster property on its own. But we need to sell it. It’s a much bigger sales thing.

Do you think you might make any content acquisitions, along the lines of Dreamworks deal for AwesomenessTV?

We’re mainly focused on organic, but we’re open to looking. Our results have been pretty differentiated. All of our key revenue lines are growing and this is just another step in the process.