Cynopsis Backstage at the Upfronts – 04/29/15: AOL, Hulu & Conde Nast Entertainment



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BEHIND THE SCENES at the Upfronts
The People! The Parties! The Buzz!a

Backstage at the Upfronts: AOL, Hulu & Condé Nast Entertainment

AOL went from sea level last year to sky-high at this year’s NewFront event. Hosted at 4 World Trade Center, the video platform looked to not only elevate its business model and programming, but also the actual guests. The 1,400 RSVPs entered the building to elevators directing them “to the sky,” where they proceeded up to the 54th floor. The event was held in an open space encased in glass windows, all the better to enjoy the panoramic landscape of Manhattan. Prior to the presentation, many opted to soak up the view while sipping an “Uninhibitor,” a tequila-based citrus cocktail; other drinks featured an ice cube sphere containing a dainty purple flower.

The theme of the evening, #Unleashed, referred to both AOL and the nature of the venue. “If you believe in freedom and innovation, then you believe in 4 World Trade Center,” said CEO Tim Armstrong as he began. “’America Online’ has changed to ‘American On Live,’ and with four billion connections in the world right now, the single largest change in the next 20 years is starting this year.” Armstrong then revealed another theme of the evening: Code and Culture: bringing the builders of culture and code together in one platform.

From NewFront Season to NewFront Year

Dermot McCormack, President of Video and Studios, is the lead strategist behind AOL’s Content 365 approach. “With the current re-bundling of TV itself, we can now unleash distribution and data. But why can’t we all get along? I’ve seen both digital and TV trash each other. We love them both, and so do our consumers. Our strategy is content 365; 80 pieces of original content, to 3600 new videos that will include all AOL brands.”

“Our whole strategy around content 365 is to blow up the idea of having dialogue with marketers and agencies only once a year, and instead have it throughout the year,” Jack Bamberger, SVP & Global Head of Agency Development, told Cynopsis. “We’re going to create daily, weekly, long-form content, integrate AOL brands and experiment.”

“We’ll also produce more partnerships within AOL’s ecosystem,” added Frank Besteiro, Head of Business Development/Partnerships, to Cynopsis. “Look at our first long-form series Connected, which did well for us and was driven by OTT distribution. That’s where content is headed, and we’re making sure we are taking full advantage of that.”

New series will be coming from AOL properties including MAKERS, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Engadget, Cambio, AOL.com, as well as new AOL Originals on its video hub, AOL On. Celebrities introduced the majority of their affiliated shows at the event, including Jared Leto, Arianna Huffington, Steve Buscemi, Ryan Duffy, James Franco and Kevin Jonas.

“There’s a theme here,” Arianna Huffington said about her new show Now What with Ryan Duffy. “Well, actually two themes: what’s working in the world…and what’s sponsor-able.”

The Afterparty
Guests chowed down on a full menu of fried chicken, waffles and grilled cheese. The view continued to wow as it morphed from bright blue sky to sparkling cityscape.



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HULU

Hulu once again brought laughs to its Upfront with Saturday Night Live cast member Taran Killam as the event’s host. “Hulu is Latin for ‘second chance for network shows,’” he joked to the packed crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Breakfast boxes filled with green juice, granola, yogurt and strudel (with green icing) were waiting for attendees while they watched the presentation. The day was filled with announcements, but the first came from CEO Mike Hopkins.

“We are changing from Hulu and Hulu Plus, to just Hulu. Mostly so that my mother will get it right when she tells her friends who I work for,” he said.

The Big Buzz
While the show (and it really was a show) featured major stars from Seth Myers to Amy Poehler to James Franco, the most electric moment came with the announcement that Hulu nabbed exclusive subscription video on-demand rights to all nine seasons of the sitcom Seinfeld. The deal is worth around $180 million, or $1 million an episode. The streaming service brought out Jerry Seinfeld himself to present the news (he’s staying busy this NF season, with his most recent appearance at Crackle’s upfront for his show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee). “Wow, that was amazing…that was a LONG time ago,” Seinfeld joked about the show. He went on to say that it took four seasons for Seinfeld to find its audience. “I remember watching Michael Richards [as Kramer] and thinking, “I don’t get [why the show’s not taking off]. This show seems funny to me!”

He had the audience ask questions. One Q had him reimagine what the character of Jerry Seinfeld would be like if the show was recreated today. “He’d be annoyed. I think all the social media and digital capability makes the world a more annoying place,” he said. The auditorium erupted in applause.

The deals didn’t stop there. “As of this morning, Hulu will be the new home of AMC streaming rights to future programming from AMC Networks,” Craig Erwich, SVP of Content, disclosed to the crowd. An audibly whispered “wow” came from one attendee.

The Distinction
“Hulu is in a unique place right now,” Erwich elaborated to Cynopsis. “Any new original series that premieres on Hulu today has a chance to have its place in history. For example, people look at The Shield as the series that really launched FX into the network it is today, with hits such as American Horror Story. Similar was Mad Men on AMC. Right now, content creators and talent have the opportunity to be part of the show that really launches Hulu.”

Long Form or Short Form?
The big back-and-forth during the NewFronts so far is whether to produce long-form content, short-form or dabble in a bit of both. Erwich sits in the middle. “There can be room for both long-form and short-form, but most of all, shows have to be undeniable on their own,” he said. “We’re buying concepts and creative vision, not a specific time format.”

Upfront the Newfront
“Is this a Newfront or an Upfront? I will put a stake in the ground and say that our ad model really represents where the TV marketplace will end up going,” Peter Naylor, SVP of Advertising Sales, told Cynopsis. “With dynamic ad insertion, you can eliminate conversations about C3 and C7 because every ad is served at the right time. That’s why I call our ad model ‘C right now.’ And we’re happy to transact new currencies based ad completions. Especially since the metric of the moment is viewability. Hulu was built for viewability.”

From The Crowd
Nothing but love for the big green SVOD: “I always enjoy coming to Hulu’s event. They just have it down  from the programming to the advertising, I know what to expect.” Omnicom Media Group’s Marjorie Kazin told Cynopsis.

Favorite TV Show To Watch on Hulu
South Park. I can watch all 18 seasons over and over. The show never gets old.” Erwich
“I like to binge watch The Awesomes and Family Guy,” Naylor



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CNE

Are you in the mood for Condé Nast Entertainment? They want to know. That’s why they handed out mood rings as guests entered the CNE NewFront event at swanky Spring Studios yesterday. People felt even groovier as they listened to retro favorites and 70’s inspired tunes such as What A Fool Believes by The Doobie Brothers, and Love Never Felt So Good by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake.

CNE showed off what the premium in content meant, with a piece made specifically for the advertisers in the audience. The NewFront Improv Imagination vid asked agency folk to reimagine how millennials would produce the NewFronts. The consensus? The two weeks would move to Staten Island with CNE coming via yacht and Vice renting an Olympic class ocean-liner; it would involve a Hunger Games-type battle among publishers for ad dollars; include an open bar with only craft cocktails, charity events, and an after party that blasted electronic dance music. Of course, the entire event would be filmed on Periscope and Meerkat…and all disappear after 15 seconds. Poof!

CNE President Dawn Ostroff made her way to the stage in a tailored, patterned leather dress with a gold statement necklace and reflected on CNE’s accomplishments. To date, CNE has produced more than 4,000 videos, and delivered more than 2.5 billion views since launching in 2013. In the 2015-2016 year, CNE plans to produce 2,500 original videos including new and returning series based on the company’s magazine properties such as 73 Questions (Vogue), Beauty This Week (Allure), Cyborg Nation (Wired), and Golf Everywhere (Golf Digest).

Lisa Valentino, Chief Revenue Officer at Condé Nast Entertainment and SVP, Digital Sales at Condé Nast detailed for Cynopsis her company’s plans:

The Pitch
“Everyone talks about being premium, but at CNE, premium is defined as making high quality content for the most sought-after influential millennials audience and then distributing it widely across all screens. We also define premium as performance  how is partnering with CNE resulting in achieving real business outcomes for advertisers? This is what we talked about to our 700 attendees at the NewFront.”

The Goal
“This year, CNE is committed to growing The Scene. Our audience will soon be able to enjoy content from our new partners Grind TV, Pitchfork and The Onion. We will expand The Scene’s distribution to even more mobile platforms later this year while improving upon the UX. We’re significantly upping our production rollout and will premiere 4,000 episodes prior to the 2016 NewFronts.”

What’s the biggest challenge?
“Every company that operates in the digital space has the same challenge  how do you set yourselves apart? At CNE, we have the privilege to work with incredible brands that can tell stories better than anyone else. We also program for our millennial audience, giving them the type of programming tailored to the platform they prefer to consume it on. All of this engagement drives high outcomes for our advertisers.”

The Afterparty
Guests were ushered into a room with a view of Tribeca, where they were enticed with mini burgers, pasta rolls, Tuna Tartare and flutes of champagne. “These flowers are gorgeous,” an attendee remarked about the centerpieces, which held branches dripping in mauve-colored blooms. 

Virtual Reality Goes Couture
CNE will break into virtual reality through a new partnership with Jaunt Studios, a producer of cinematic VR experiences. The two will co-produce two narrative/plot-based virtual reality series this year, the first of which is called Vida Belleza. Upstairs, CNE set up VR stations for the crowd to test out the tech after the event. It was a lot of hands swatting at the air, and staring into corners of the room…cool!

Quote of the Day
What fun things are in your office?
A large dollar sign money bank, because I recognize that great opportunities come in lots of sizes. Second, a large comfy couch because anyone who works in this business recognizes the need for it at some point.  Lisa Valentino

–Reported by Jessica Reese

Coming up in “Backstage at the Upfronts,” in your mailbox at 6pm!

What do you call jalapeño tequila and grapefruit juice? Well, if you’re Refinery29, you name it "Forever Forward" to match your NewFront theme. Then you serve it to thirsty media buyers. Top off with swag bags filled with Urban Decay naked eyeshadow palettes, and you’re guaranteed a good time.

Plus, YouTube’s Newfront; we’ll have all the details, tomorrow at 6pm.



Keep Watching & Reading,
Lynn Leahey, Editor
Roberta Caploe: Associate Publisher @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group 

Cynopsis Ad Sales: Mike Farina | VP, Sales | 203-218-6480

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