What One Media Agency Exec Wants to See From 3 Highly Anticipated NewFronts Presentations

Looking at YouTube, Hulu and Twitter for answers

Can YouTube fix its brand safety issues? Getty Images
Headshot of Charlie Fiordalis

Doing well on the SATs is all about problem solving strategies. For example, when taking the test, it’s critical to form an idea of the answer before looking at the multiple choice options. The best way to avoid the distraction of incorrect, trick options on the exam is to have plausible answers top-of-mind acting as a filter.

The NewFronts, kicking of Monday, May 1, present a similar challenge as we prepare to hear news and announcements from across the industry. It’s a packed calendar with more than 30 companies hosting events, not to mention the cable upfronts already in swing and the TV Upfronts later in May. With all the noise, we need to keep focused on the kind of real news that will move the needle. Let’s look at three of the largest, most highly anticipated presentations, which have potential to take our eye off the ball with stars and special effects—even though they’ll likely bring the goods alongside the glitter.

YouTube: Google is squarely in the crosshairs of two huge supply chain issues: brand safety and viewability. They’ve provided quick, reactionary promises on shoring up their controls and allowing third-party verification but the details have been light. We need more. I’m quite excited by the potential of ‘programmatic TV’ through YouTube Red, but it isn’t without its red tape. Locked fast-forward similar to VOD make it less differentiated and might hurt adoption from the key cord cutter/never target. I’m looking for third-party research and stats on adoption so far. Also, they’re adding ad blocking to Chrome? Let’s see how they position that to the ad buying community.

Hulu: The closest thing to TV, so close that it billed its 2016 NewFront week event as an Upfront under the tagline “Come TV With Us.” It’s a strong message and to continue it Hulu needs to maintain its 70 percent plus viewership on connected TV’s and its TV content deals.

I have it on good word from senior publisher executives that there are huge waiting lists for many of the events.

The big news we’re all looking for is around Hulu’s live TV streaming service launch, slated for spring, possibly in time for their May 3 event. They have a teaser video on the UX, but price levels, bundles, cloud DVR, non-advertising options and new ad formats and targeting are all unknown at this point. As a holistic media strategist I couldn’t be more excited, but the details are really going to count both for consumers and for media buyers.

Twitter: The highly scrutinized pivot continues, posing the question: will people embrace social TV as a one-screen experience? The thing to keep in mind here is that we should now compare Twitter directly against Hulu and YouTube’s premium video offerings, which in turn should be compared against TV in as common a language as possible. Twitter’s metrics in the past have resisted that.

The TV metric of average viewers per minute is more relevant than the much lower bar Twitter has used of total streams. In Twitter’s case, looking at its highest value content, NFL Thursday Night Football, it translates to an average game value of around 300,000 average viewers per minute vs. Twitter’s reported 3.5 million total streams. Will people watch Twitter video content on the big screen? It’ll need a combination of tune-in worthy content as well as a one-screen social TV experience that’s better than the current two-screen standard.

With Buzzfeed, Yahoo, and Fullscreen all pulling out of the NewFronts, the distracting, trap answer is that the NewFronts are starting to lose relevancy. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The NewFronts are evolving from an Upfront imitation to their own, thriving entity. Publishers aren’t simply dropping out of live presentations, they’re tailoring their events to the audience, for example Studio71’s fully virtual event. In addition, I have it on good word from senior publisher executives that there are huge waiting lists for many of the events. Why, you might ask? The NewFronts are the only time when senior sellers and buyers gather together to experience and discuss new opportunities and cut deals.

Got the mindset? I love a good NewFront event, but the real value is in seeing how they navigate current issues and challenges over the stars and shimmering special effects.

Now go forth and ace the NewFronts.

Charlie Fiordalis (@admergency) is chief digital officer at Media Storm.

@admergency Charlie Fiordalis is managing partner at MediaCom.