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Newfront 2012 – the starting line in the battle for new over-the-top digital television

What is the Newfront?  This is a series of presentations and meetings hosted like an exclusive conference of media planners and press to generate interest and buzz among the advertising community for digital media content.  It is a play on “the upfront.”

Among the videos on the “newfront” website are examples of the content being developed for digital distribution.

Each year in the traditional television business, the network executives and talent present their concepts and trailers for new series intended for that upcoming television season.  The agency buyers will reserve much of the advertising inventory for new and returning series in advance because they can negotiate a volume discount on behalf of their clients.  Agency planners will make rating estimates for use in these negotiations.  This period of showing, estimating and negotiating is called “upfront.”  We are in the negotiating and deal closing portion of the fall 2012 television season now, and many networks are closing or have closed the agreements with agencies and advertisers for the time they want to purchase in advance.  In the case of digital, the over-the-top players are riding the “upfront” coattails in order to capture a portion of the big television advertising budgets by showcasing their first run digital series at a time when advertisers are placing their bets for new hit series.

In addition to this sales tactic, it would be wise to consider adopting and experimenting with more strategies and tactics successfully employed in successful traditional television series.  Television has many marketing and channel strategies that will continue to work in the digital media space.  People consume television series as a way to relax, but they often consume online viral videos in a much different mode.  We need to be much more disciplined than the “make a lot of content and see what goes viral” method described by Ron Faris of Virgin Mobile in his presentation at Newfront 2012, and doing so, will allow us to see the full potential of advertising revenue migrating to digital content.

I suggest that digitally distributed available content be packaged and of similar or better quality as the content available through traditional television because the audiences and business models need to support the advertiser’s objectives in terms of reach and impressions.  First, however the content needs to be engaging across enough episodes and hours for the consumer to watch long enough to support the minutes of advertising required.

We are just getting started with a first “newfront” and there is a long way to go in with the opportunities for defining the audience levels and business model for hit digital series.

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