Should the NewFronts and UpFronts be merged?

The NewFronts, which take place this week in New York City,  are intended to play an important part in driving digital video from a US $4.1 billion business to a US $9 billion business over the next three years, as researcher E-marketer expects. But then, of course, on May 13, the TV Upfronts start, the annual presentations where the major TV networks reveal their fall line-ups to advertisers. Let’s not forget that TV advertising was an almost US $65 billion business last year dwarfing  digital video advertising. Since both the NewFronts and the Upfronts involve audiovisual media, Should they be  merged? Here is what some major players told Portada about this question.

The tremendous growth of digital video advertising (particularly in the U.S. Hispanic market), which includes the even stronger growing Hispanic mobile video , raises the question whether both types of audiovisual media compete or complement each other. Going one step further: Is there a need to organize the TV Upfronts and the digital NewFronts separately? Here is what some major players interviewed by Portada have to say.

Newfronts“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.” This 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. Mandela 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.

Zubi Advertising hasn’t participated in the NewFronts yet, but Isabella Sanchez, vice president, media integration for Zubi, is 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.

Could the increase in cross-channel campaigns obviate the need for a separate Digital NewFront? Carl Fremont, until recently EVP Media Director at Digitas and now 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.”

Marla Skiko, SVP/Director of Digital Innovation at  SMG Multicultural 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 NewFronts 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.”

Digital Media Correspondent Susan Kuchinskas contributed to this article.