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Cynopsis Media presents:
Digital Upfront 2012 - The Review
Good morning. It's Monday, May 7, 2012 and this is your second installment of a two-part series surrounding the Digital Content NewFronts.
Like TV, But Different
By Sahil Patel
In my Q&A with Janet Balis, SVP and Head of Sales Strategy, Marketing, and Partnerships at AOL, she described digital video content as being different than TV in the sense that digital video is characterized by a scarcity of premium content, at scale. TV's economics, on the other hand, are defined by a scarcity of inventory, she said. In other words, digital video is not only "dogs/cats on skateboards" anymore. It was a phrase that was echoed across a lot of presentations during the inaugural Digital Content NewFronts; aiming to assert the viability and profitability of digital video content to an audience of buyers and advertising decision-makers who may still be lounging on the TV side of the fence. (Incidentally, I would argue that you'd be hard-pressed to find many people who view digital video as just a catalog of pets doing cute/hilarious things. Nonetheless, the point was made that digital video is here and that it has staying power).
But how? It goes back to this strategy of premium content, developed by leading content creators and brands, distributed by prominent online networks (the DCNF presenters) at scale, to an audience that is online and is willing to consume and engage with content that appeals to them. In a nutshell, across every presentation, that was the unifying theme.
This aligns the television model in an interesting way. And not just by taking the established TV industry practice of the Upfront. It can be argued that all television content is premium. That's why the TV Upfronts are a hot ticket. And just like with the TV Upfronts, some of the premium programming presented at the events seemed exciting and likely headed for success, and some not as much. It makes sense; after all, no one bats a thousand. But by collaborating with star producers, filmmakers, and talent, many of whom have had success in television, the digital side is aiming for that same level of respectability in the eyes and wallets of advertisers.
And yet, the DCNF presenters also argued that they, and premium digital content, are different.
AOL, Digitas, Hulu, Microsoft, NBCUniversal, Yahoo!, YouTube, Alloy, DECA, Disney Interactive, Digital Broadcasting Group, PopSugar, VEVO, and every other presenter at the DCNF described how it had the potential to reach a wide audience, and how in many cases, it was already doing so. Therefore, with that capacity in place, all that was needed was premium content targeted to those audiences, whether it be moms, teenagers, men, or many other demos, to create an opportunity where brands could come in and connect with those consumers. And with the interactive and democratic nature of digital content, brands would not have to be confined to sponsorships and 30-second spot advertisements (even though that is an option as well), or to just one screen (even though that is an option as well).
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM GOOGLE
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So was this inaugural event successful?
Yes, kind of. While the conversation surrounding the monetization of digital video had already begun, it can be said that the Digital Content NewFronts were necessary to propel it forward, from a discussion point to one that leads to action. Surveying Digitas' NewFront, which provided a window into where both content providers and advertisers stood on the path to developing a digital video marketplace, it didn't appear that this was a fool's errand. There were opportunities at the Digitas NewFront for brands, agencies, and content creators to meet, discuss, and negotiate deals -- with some 40 or so of such meetings taking place during the six-hour event. This coupled with reports of the individual DCNF presenters sitting down with advertisers indicates that there is legitimate interest in such a marketplace.
That being said, a lot of work still remains. The DCNF presenters were effective in grabbing the attention of some advertisers. At the end of the day, the extent to which each presenter was effective will be determined by how many deals it closed and partnerships it established -- how well it monetized the premium content that it highlighted. That information may be forthcoming, but will be best characterized by how the six founding DCNF partners and other presenters shape the second annual event next year. What will be different, down to the volume of attendees when compared to the inaugural DCNF, will be as important as what will be presented.
Digital video is still in many ways at a nascent stage. Looking ahead, a lot has to be done to get advertisers as on board with it as they are with the TV side, including the ever-important task of proving that the premium digital video showcased at the DCNF is reaching audiences. That information can't come from the content providers alone. There is a necessity for an independent, consistent, and effective measurement that can become a standard for video buying. Forward strides have been made in this department, as exemplified by Nielsen's Online Campaign Ratings initiative, among others, to get advertisers more comfortable with digital video.
It was said during a panel at the Digitas NewFront that it's going to take top brands to monetize digital in an effective way. Simple as it is to say, the inaugural Digital Content NewFronts were successful in pushing digital video forward, getting that foot in the proverbial door. How (not if) it gets to a permanent seat next to TV at the big table is still to be determined.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
Here are brief overviews of each individual DCNF presentation, along with one highlight from said event. For a more extensive list of the programming showcased at each event, click through to see the full report. http://www.cynopsis.com/editions/digital/
Don't Quit Your Daydream, a new series from actor/filmmaker Adrian Grenier, who spoke at the event, based on a documentary by Grenier and John Loar. Targeted toward the 18-34 demographic, the docu-series follows a cast of musicians that travel across the country in search of artists to collaborate on a new song, thereby giving them a second chance at stardom. Still in development, this series is available for brand sponsorships.
PopSugar announced that it was in the process of building live broadcast studio sets at their offices in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with the intention of establishing a live 24/7 network.
CLiP (content library platform): A video payer populated with several different content channels that are embedded directly in publishers' websites (approximately 300, which DBG said lead to 35 million streams per month). CLiP offers ad inventory that is adjacent to curated content that is relevant to a specific audience. At its presentation, DBG showcased the six content channels that are a part of CLiP, including Entertainment, Sports, Men's Lifestyle, Women's Lifestyle, Business/Tech, and Travel.
Xbox LIVE. Microsoft said 50+ partners have signed on in the last four months to offer content apps through the console. In addition, the company said that Xbox LIVE (gold members) spend 84 hours a month on the service. For them, entertainment app usage has surpassed multiplayer gaming on the service. Essentially, it said that it has turned the largest screen in the house, the TV, into a digital screen. Microsoft also delved into how Kinect will be capable of creating interactive programming. For example, a kids/mom program where kids can "cook" their favorite meals alongside a celebrity chef, after which the mother can cook that dish in real life.
The Huffington Post Streaming Network (HPSN), which is slated to arrive in June. It will stream 12 hours of live programming each weekday. AOL has structured the network to support a handful of category exclusive sponsors, who can partner and integrate content "deeply" into the live show. Aside from that, the content on HPSN will also be broken down into short-form videos that can be viewed on-demand. That's not all, the Huffington Post will also get the iPad magazine treatment, and additional sections will be launched that allow brands to partner with content that demonstrates the "values and causes" with which they want to be identified.
The ability for brands to target and interact with consumers based on curated playlists created by the users themselves. VEVO said that this manner of short-form music video content being "stitched" together into a long-form format is capable of boosting viewer engagement.
Cybergeddon, a feature film written and directed by CSI creator Anthony Zuiker, in partnership with Norton by Symantec, which counseled the filmmakers on technology and privacy-related issues. The full-length film is about a worldwide technological catastrophe, and will follow a unique distribution model; it will be broken down into several segments and distributed one-by-one exclusively on Yahoo!.
Chasing Cobra Starship, a new reality competition series that is premiering in July 2012. Targeted toward the 12-34 demo, the show follows teams of music fans as they embark on a Cobra Starship-centric scavenger hunt in order win VIP access to the band. In a well-timed bit of promotional integration, Cobra Starship performed to close out the event.
Daily Shot with Ali Wentworth; a quick morning show where the comedienne delivers news and her perspective on current events/trends. The show is distributed primarily on Yahoo! and Babble, which Disney recently purchased. However, it was announced that the show is coming to the iPhone soon. Ali Wentworth and her production team shot the next day's episode at Disney's event.
The "Stars of the Social Screens" panel, which featured a discussion between Piers Morgan, Michelle Phan, Felicia Day, and Kristin Chenoweth that covered the importance of authenticity when it comes to connecting with audiences through digital and social platforms.
In July, DECA will extend its M-Network on to YouTube, and said it will result in a roll-up of hundreds of top women's channels and websites.
FUNNY OR DIE:
Bravo Media's 80 Plates Tweet Challenge: Teaming up with Infiniti, Bravo will give fans of the network's new reality culinary competition series Around the World in 80 Plates a chance to win plane tickets to a destination featured on the show. By tweeting #80plateschallenge every week, fans can get closer and closer to pinpointing the location of the plane tickets (to that week's featured destination) on an interactive map on BravoTV.com and on Bravo mobile. The tickets can be in one of 10 secret U.S. cities each week.
Aside from the Jay-Z performance, YouTube unveiled WIGS, a new channel that focuses on scripted dramatic series and short films about the lives of women. The channel is the brainchild of filmmakers Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Risky Business) and Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment). The content on the channel will features the likes of Virginia Madsen, Stephen Moyer, Jennifer Garner, Alfred Molina, Julia Stiles, all of whom star in the first three series, with Jennifer Beals, America Ferrera, Dakota Fanning, Alison Janney, and others signed on to appear in upcoming series. The content will also feature documentaries, behind-the-scenes videos, and other unscripted content, all starring female leads. The channel is set to launch in May.
Later - Sahil
Sahil Patel, Associate Reporter for Cynopsis Digital
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