Monday, May 12, 2014

The End Of The Parties?

The NewFronts were a blast.  Some great parties, some great new content.  Exciting time to be in the digital video industry.

The head of the IAB was optimistic in the NY Times:
At the 2014 NewFronts, “we saw a new marketplace being born,” said Randall Rothenberg, president and chief executive of the bureau, likening this year on the digital video timeline to “1982 or 1983 in the cable industry,” when advertisers were beginning to embrace cable by spending significant sums to buy commercial time on CNN and the channel now known as TBS.
I had the good fortune to be in the cable network industry back then and the times do seem similar - from the buzz, the entrepreneurial spirit and the wild randomness of content ideas and associated talent.  However, there is one big thing missing - a monopolistic distribution platform (from the cable operators) that guaranteed shelf space and audience to the early entrants, regardless of how long it took to get the programming right. 

Today's ad supported programmers are dependent on fickle YouTube algorithms and a still emerging ecosystem of distribution platforms with any scale, beyond YouTube.

If there is anyone to be bullish on, its AOL.  Their party on a pier in the Brooklyn Navy Yard rivaled MTV's bashes in their glory years, and was attended by a who's who of advertisers, content creators and stars, all who are collaborating on dozens of new programs for AOL.

At the end of the day, the NewFronts were PR events.  Will the brands and their agencies who attended move dollars at the pace they did from broadcast to cable starting in the 80s?  Or does the whole idea of over 100 upfront sales bazaars contradict a fast approaching new world order, where the advertisers are themselves media companies, armed with more and more tools to communicate directly with their customers.

The most thought-provoking reaction to the NewFronts came from a media industry blog I read:
If I were a brand looking to truly connect, engage and build a direct relationship with my consumers, I would be less impressed with more video advertising inventory that can now be found online, and I would be spending the bulk of that time figuring out who is our Bethany Mota? Is it someone we build out from within, or is it someone we partner with for success?