The party was in New York City this month, where the TV Upfronts took place. Also in the Big Apple in late April the digital New- Fronts happened, the online industry’s answer to the upfronts. Says Carl Fremont, until recently EVP of Media at Digitas, the agency that put together the first Digitas NewFront six years ago, “We saw that there was no forum that brought together producers, distributors, buyers, sellers and researchers in the digital video content arena. Video was becoming a really viable medium for brand marketers.”That first event featured Vuguru, Michael Eisner’s year-old web content production company, MySpace TV and MTV New Media, and Third Act, Digitas’ new digital brand content practice. In 2012, AOL, Google, Hulu, MSFT AD, and Yahoo joined Digitas in an extended event rebranded the Digital Content NewFronts.
This year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau took over leadership of the event, with 12 content companies participating, including AOL, Disney Interactive, The Wall Street Journal and, for the first time, Univision.
“Our participation in the NewFront is a reflection of the success we have had with our digital expansion efforts over the past 12 months and the appetite for digital content among the audience we serve,” says Steve Mandala, executive vice president, advertising sales, for Univision Communications. “Univision owns the intersection of the two growth opportunities in media – Hispanic and digital – and we are focused on delivering a Univision branded experience everywhere our audience is.” During its New- Front presentation Univision Communications unveiled plans to launch several web-only series; a new online destination for Hispanic millennials, and announced the addition of five new channels to its UVideos platform.
Although brief, the presentation included remarks by the company’s top executive brass, including César Conde, President, Univision Network; and Kevin Conroy, President, Digital and Enterprise Development. Also in attendance was Univision CEO Randy Falco. Among the new initiatives, Univision introduced Flama, a digital destination that promises “culturally relevant content” targeting Hispanic millennials. “This is the place for fun, irreverent content,” said Camila Jimenez, VP, Strategy at Univision, at the presentation. Series concepts include Salseras, and Back Home, a docuseries that “takes young Hispanics on a journey back to their ancestral homelands with a small budget and a list of challenges.” Flama is slated to launch in the fall. Univision also announced the addition of five new channels on UVideos, its bilingual digital video network: The Lifestyle, Cooking, Beauty and Fashion, Comedy and Behind the Scenes.
Univision´s strategy reflects the growing importance of digital video to Hispanic consumers. In Q4 2012, Hispanics spent an average of 9.58 hours per month watching video on the internet, and 5.58 hours watching video on a mobile phone, up year-over-year from 6.41 minutes and 5.46 minutes respectively. Smartphone penetration among Hispanics is also higher in general, at 68 percent, compared to 59 percent for the general U.S. population, Nielsen said.
Univision is also participating in the TV upfront. Mandala wouldn’t reveal details of his company’s offerings, but he said, “We will unveil a robust effort around made-for-web content and digital innovations that include customizable opportunities for our advertising partners.” He also promised that content partner Grupo Televisa will play a key role.
DIGITAL CONTENT STARS
“The NewFronts are a great opportunity to see the new concepts coming from technology companies, as well as new formats, where you have content developed by Hulu and Amazon and Netflix,” says Steven Wolfe Pereira, executive vice president at Media- Vest and managing director of MediaVest Multicultural.
Zubi Advertising hasn’t participated in the New- Fronts yet, but Isabella Sanchez, vice president media integration for Zubi, was tempted by Univision’s invitation. She thinks the upfronts are a must in order to get clients space in top programs that sell out, like American Idol and the Latin GRAMMYs. “Networks obligate marketers to firm up a lot of their money months in advance via the upfronts,” Sanchez says. “If those same rules are applied to digital, the advertiser has to be given a strong advantage to do that, such as exclusive and premier content.” Because Hispanic digital is newer, she adds, it’s difficult to determine whether such valuable opportunities will be on offer.
Noting that Hispanics are much more likely to watch video on a tablet or mobile device than mainstream consumers, Marla Skiko, EVP/Director of Digital Innovation, SMG Multicultural, says that the NewFronts help her agency understand what content will be available. She’s especially interested to hear from YouTube what it will be offering on its Hispanic channels, launched last year. She says, “We love when bigger companies not completely invested in Hispanic media grow the space, like YouTube and Hulu. From the advertising agency’s standpoint, the more supply we have, all the better for us.”
TV VS. DIGITAL
The TV upfronts traditionally took place the first week in May; many saw the April NewFronts originally as a play to grab ad dollars away from TV. These days, with the proliferation of cable channels and digital video properties, now all of spring is open season on media buyers from February through Mid-May. The 2013 TV upfronts began with CMT (Country Music Television) and Fox Sports on March 5, and they end with The CW, USA Network and HTS on May 16. This year, the Digital Content NewFronts sat in the middle of the upfronts, with most events held the week of April 29. Below a roundup:
CNET to introduce Spanish-language version
CBS Interactive (CBSi) announced several Spanish-language initiatives, including a Spanish-language edition of CNET that will debut in the fall. Jim Lanzone, president of CBSi, said he wants to offer unique digital content for a Spanish-speaking audience of 50 million in the U.S., with more in Latin America and across the globe. The Spanish-language version of CNET “will not just be a machine translating our English content into Spanish,” Lanzone said, “it will be its own distinct site.” CBSi is also working on a Spanish-language version of GameSpot.
Hulu announced “East Los High”, the first English-language drama series produced by Hulu that specifically targets Hispanic audiences. “East Los High” will join the ten other Hulu Original Series and Hulu Exclusive Series that will be premiering as part of Hulu’s Summer Slate 2013,According to Hulu, “Dance, sex, romance and mystery are at the heart of this inner city school in East L.A. where two teenage cousins, Jessie, a 16-year-old virgin, and Maya, a troubled runaway with a violent past, fall in love with Jacob, a popular football player. With this forbidden love triangle, Maya, Jessie and Jacob, along with their close friends, must face true-to-life decisions throughout a turbulent year that will mark their lives forever. A Hulu Exclusive Series, “East Los High” features an all Latino cast, director, writers and creators—many hailing from East L.A. More than 15 leading public health organizations such as Advocates for Youth, Voto Latino, California Family Health Council and Legacy LA, among others, advised on the scripts and content to address teen issues related to relationships and sexuality in a meaningful way.
NBC Universal Telemundo
NBCUniversal’s Telemundo announced a partnership with The Weather Company to tailor weather coverage to a Hispanic audience. Telemundo hopes to increase interaction between its broadcasts and social media by partnering with Zeebox, a second-screen viewing app for tablets and smartphones.
Mundial Sports Network
Mundial Sports Network, a digital network catering to U.S. Hispanic sports fans, announced expanded digital video and branded content offerings at its New York City NewFront presentation. The network is offering branded audio content to advertisers through digital radio.
While the broadcasters make a stir by parading stars during their upfronts, the NewFronts are a bit more pragmatic, according to Skiko. In the New- Fronts, content companies lay out their content plans, explain their ad offerings and how they’ll scale. “The relationships they have with clients and agencies will play out after the fact,” she says. “When you have the sales conversation, some questions are already answered.”
THE BLEND TREND
There are two important trends evidenced in the TV upfronts and Digital Content New- Fronts: the blending of broadcast and digital, and the blending of multicultural with mainstream media.
Univision is a prime example of the blurring between broadcast and digital. In 2012, it combined the teams responsible for digital and broadcast brand engagement into a single unit, later adding UVideo, a cross-platform digital video distribution service. And it premiered its newest novela, Arranque de Pasion, on the web before broadcasting it. This year, it will hold both a TV upfront and a NewFront. “We look at the Newfront as a complement to the Upfront and an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the robust offering of digital innovations we are taking to market,” Mandala says.
Could the increase in cross-channel campaigns obviate the need for a separate Digital NewFront? Fremont, who recently was appointed Global Chief Digital Officer at MEC, thinks that the digital and broadcast marketplaces will remain separate for now. He says that while revenue from digital is very important to broadcasters, media buyers are not always well-equipped to evaluate them as a package. Moreover, he thinks they remain distinct media. “The worst thing that could happen would be to treat digital video like broadcast,” he says. “It’s a different medium with a different behavior set. Both are critical to the marketing mix but very distinct.”
Skiko agrees that broadcast producers are all in different stages of going digital. But she sees the marketplace blending already. “Some players are more steeped in broadcast now but are expanding to other screens. Even in the upfront, they won’t just talk about broadcast, they will talk about the totality. The New- Fronts are pure-play digital, but selling the same kind of story: strong content to bring in more users and viewers and not worry about what screen they’re watching on.”
At the same time, marketers realize they need to reach Hispanics everywhere they go. Anel Hooper, associate media director for Bromley Communications, buys both traditional and digital media (although she did not go to the upfronts nor the NewFronts this year). In her 15 years as a buyer, her agency has changed from its traditional focus on Hispanic media. “A lot of our clients want to reach the bilingual Hispanic, so they’re looking into English-language websites and media. We’re reaching Hispanics in a totally different form. It’s all about the content, whether in English or Spanish,” she says.
Wolfe Pereira says Mediavest calls this “total market buying. We don’t believe in putting Hispanic media in a corner,” he says. “It’s one plan, one flow chart for all the consumer touch points.”
THE AD SALES ECOSYSTEM
In the age of real-time bidding and automated bid management, are the Digital NewFronts necessary? Aren’t they a throwback to old-fashioned media buying, when an advertiser could tell that half of his ad investment paid off but not which half? Absolutely not, says Skiko. While programmatic buying can be useful for digital prerolls and interstitials, “You want to know how the brand can be integrated and how you can be more relevant. That takes more than just spots,” she says. For digital video publishers looking to get her clients’ dollars, “The basics have to be there, but they want to illustrate what else they can do to have the brand involved at a deeper level.”
Zubi’s Sanchez concurs. “One could call it old-fashioned, but there’s still a need to talk about objectives and making it customizable for clients, as opposed to just making it cost-based. It’s about quality, not always about quantity.”