Cynopsis Upfronts Roundup

Back by popular demand, the Upfront/NewFronts Navigator is here to provide you with a convenient, easy-to-use resource center for the busiest time of the year. Sponsored by The Weather Channel Television Network, we provide coverage + access to the following:
-Network resource guides detailing programs, demo info, and more
-Calendar of the Upfront/NewFronts schedules
-Updates from the presentations, road shows & meetings
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Cynopsis Upfronts Roundup
Whether media companies throw splashy events or opt for smaller agency meetings for the Upfront season, one thing’s the same: It’s the message that matters. What are the most important issues facing advertisers now, and how are media companies addressing these challenges? Cynopsis gathered insights from ad sales leaders about the strategies and programming trends they’re talking about.
Laura Molen, President, Advertising Sales and Partnerships, NBCUniversal:
“There are three big issues facing advertisers this Upfront season.The first issue is the need to improve the commercial experience in an effort to engage consumers in a more meaningful way, creating a better connection with a marketer’s brand. Commercial innovation is a huge priority for us at NBCUniversal – we are constantly continuing to innovate and come up with new ways to provide unique and powerful real estate to marketers while improving the viewing experience for our audiences.
“The second issue is measurement. We are seeing a dramatic shift in viewership, with audiences – in particular younger viewers – migrating to different platforms to watch longform content, and in order for marketers to reach their full potential, they must be able to measure across them all. To answer this need, we at NBCUniversal launched CFlight, the industry’s first unified advertising metric for capturing impressions across every platform, one year ago, with major plans for expansion in the coming months.
“The final issue is the need to reach viewers everywhere, from local with addressable to global scale. For a brand to succeed today, they must figure out how to make the world both a smaller and bigger place. At NBCUniversal, we just launched our first joint advertising initiative with Sky, unifying our advanced advertising capabilities in our first step toward creating a global premium video offering, with much more to come in 2019 and beyond.
“There are a few different programming trends this upfront season. Like the movie industry, we’re seeing great success with franchises, everything from the Housewives to the Kardashians to The Voice – known IP which sets the tone for pop culture. Live events are also becoming increasingly important, from news to red carpet to sports. And the hunger for news and information is really opening up the door for more documentary programming, which has huge crossover potential for us. Take for example, Dirty John – we created a successful scripted series on Bravo based on the true-crime podcast (a growing area for consumers which opens a whole new world, with much more to come from that space) and then in turn aired a documentary on the subject on Oxygen.”
Jon Steinlauf, Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer, Discovery, Inc.:
“We want to continue to maximize our new position as the #2 TV company in terms of audience share, and we are well positioned with unique, real life brands and content, high engagement across platforms, and strong ratings. 
“Our clients want to be confident in their marketing investments and are more data driven than ever before. They ask for their investments to be as cost-efficient and optimized as possible. Clients talk a lot about brand safety and the importance of environments that are inspiring and positive. Discovery is a strong investment on all of these priorities. 
“There is an overarching sense among advertisers and media companies of a TV market in transition, and clients want partners with effective platforms that can extend their reach beyond linear – particularly among younger, harder-to-reach viewers. We think our young-skewing streaming services (the Go apps, with 50,000 titles across our portfolio) are best-in-class to compete for non-linear ad dollars.” 
Marianne Gambelli, President of Advertising Sales for Fox Corporation:
“We are entering Upfront season with an optimism for the future. Fox Corporation is at its core a bold and nimble organization that delivers the best in entertainment, sports and news for viewers and the most valuable brands and properties for our advertisers. Our streamlined portfolio enables us to take risks and create customized partnerships that deliver on our clients’ business needs.” 
 Ed Georger, EVP, Ad Sales and Digital Media, Crown Media Family Networks:
“Lack of supply in cable, especially in high quality, original programming that tells great stories,” is a big issue facing advertisers, says Georger. “We are committed to the Hallmark brand promise and our seasonal programming strategy makes Hallmark Channel one of only a few cable networks seeing continued rating growth.
 “We think viewers are inundated with news, reality and crime programs and there is a lack of positive, feel-good storytelling that allows viewers to escape. Our networks fill that void and we believe our growing audience is testament to the overwhelming need for this type of content.”
Jennifer Kohl, SVP of Integrated Media, VMLY&R:
“There is A LOT happening with broadcast/video that will impact the upfront season. Key issues include all the mergers – with Fox and Disney being the most recent. Another consideration would be that initial results on ‘Prime Pods’ seem positive, so I will be interested to see how these are included in the Upfronts. And then, of course there is always YouTube and how they are strategically inserting themselves in the upfront discussion as they vie for traditional TV dollars.
“Upfronts will be significantly impacted by the increase of OTT viewing. While the video landscape continues to splinter, upfront pricing seems to increase year over year, and I don’t expect 2019/20 to be any different. Attribution for OTT will potentially play a bigger role as well.”
Katrina Cukaj, EVP of Ad Sales strategy and Network Partnerships for WarnerMedia Ad Sales:
Marketers want to know their message is resonating and forming the right connections. We will continue to help them accomplish that through a combination of premium content that attracts a wide array of audiences, award-winning brand studios, leading advertising technology and platforms that are optimized for their message.
“Across our industry the focus is on developing the ultimate content destination. That means continuing to invest in great, premium content across all platforms while simultaneously developing an environment for that content that enriches the experience for our audience.” 
Peter Olsen, EVP, Ad Sales, A+E Networks:
“An impressive slate of programming representing all of our brands took center stage as the A+E portfolio, which once again entered the Upfront in a position of strength. A+E was first to market with outcome-based guarantees in 2018, and we’re excited about offering our attribution solutions alongside even more deals in this year’s Upfront. As one of media’s only remaining mid-sized portfolios, we’ll look to capitalize on our customer-friendly reputation and continue to provide a service-first experience for our marketing partners.”
Sean Moran, Head of Ad Solutions, Viacom:
“Advertisers are looking for creative and authentic ways to connect with young audiences in this increasingly segmented media landscape. Viacom has the broadest TV-quality reach against the highly coveted and elusive youth demographic, and we’ve capitalized on our new forms of inventory and capabilities over the past year to offer the most comprehensive suite of solutions that can engage consumers wherever they are.”
Barbara Bekkedahl, SVP/Head of Ad Sales, The Weather Channel television network:
“Advertisers need to look at the full spectrum of video offerings and make intentional decisions about the best media options to present their ad messages to consumers. The new advertising darling data is a great informer for marketers, but it’s also important to empower a critical and experienced human to think about the contextual environment where their ads are being consumed. At The Weather Channel television network, we have a 30+ year legacy of trust with our viewers and this trusted environment is proven to be a more effective environment for our advertisers. 
In the news marketplace, The Weather Channel television network is setting a new standard by elevating weather storytelling with Immersive Mixed Reality (IMR). The engagement (and associated ad retention) proves that cable news can inform and captivate audiences without politics, and we bring IMR plus our trusted environment to advertisers as a platform for their brand stories.”
Steve Mandala, President of Advertising Sales and Marketing, Univision 
“More and more advertisers are challenged with optimizing media plans and ensuring efficient reach at a time when the space has become more fragmented. Our task is to help advertisers see the total picture with their marketing mix because brands are not effectively reaching the so-called total market without appealing to our viewers. We have an audience of more than 13 million people who do not watch English-language television. The best part is that these are folks who are younger and continue to watch our programming and brands’ commercials live.”
Bill Rosolie, SVP of Ad Sales at REELZ:
“As viewing patterns shift to longer tail networks REELZ is the beneficiary because the audience we deliver is as valuable as that of bigger networks. REELZ is one of few remaining independent networks and our agility allows us to produce timely and relevant original programming that provides clients with multi-platform opportunities to showcase their brands.”
Scott Boos, President, Ad Sales, Integrated Investment, Pursuit Channel:
“Seldom a day goes by we don’t talk about the strides made in closing the ageless battle and disconnect between linear and digital content…the Great Divide, right. Yet bifurcation sure seems to be alive and kicking at the transacting level of business. Budgets, measurement, creative are all spec’d to each platforms attributes, perceived viewer engagement behavior and in some cases archaic mindsets. For example, short form (3-6 minute) content is a gear jammer for traditional linear programmers. Our first reaction to these requests tends to be ‘Why?,’ when we really need to say to ourselves, ‘Why not punch through this self-imposed barrier and take a beautifully produced short film to linear, VOD and streaming channel audiences seamlessly?’. 
“Most importantly, we believe the conversation needs to be about brand imaging and creating customized marketing tools to appeal to existing customers and potential customers’ ‘lifestyles.’ Programming that people can identify and relate to. When people relate to something they become believers and believers mean buyers and ultimately… isn’t that why we’re here?”

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