Digital Players Want TV-Like Upfronts, But Do They Have The Glitzy Goods -- Or The Sushi?
Big digital media companies may not think traditional TV has all the current right stuff – but they sure like the way TV gets to advertisers and its relatively quick and big media dollars.
We speak of the upfront.
Now it seems the likes of Google/YouTube, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and Hulu (yes, it does have traditional TV companies as partners) want to get closer to some of the $18 billion in upfront money that gets committed to big TV networks and studios over a relatively short time span of a couple of weeks.
So during a couple of weeks in April, before most of the the broadcast and cable networks offer their presentations to advertisers, the digital media companies will take a crack at convincing marketers to make some long-term plans on their behalf.
Trouble is, do they have key digital -- perhaps star-studded -- media assets to do it?
When cable networks were in kind of the same position in the late 1980s and early 1990s, media executives sang the same song: "What's the rush? Is there anything I really need to buy?"
Now, with the likes of original dramas and strong reality shows like "Jersey Shore" and "Pawn Stars," that is a different story. It has become necessary for media buyers to lock in some key cable programming assets to make up for lost ratings points on broadcast network shows.
Can the same be said about stuff on YouTube, Yahoo or other places?
While cable has gotten a lot better, broadcast networks are still king. During the upfront, they can sell 75-85% of their respective entire supply of commercial inventory versus 50%-60% for a broad range of cable networks. Digital video? What supply do they sell currently in year-long media plan deals?
To be fair, home pages on the likes of Yahoo! Sports or Yahoo! Movies can be key assets for media money. But that may not exactly be like buying just premium TV/video -- even with top drawer pre-roll digital video inventory.
Right now, the biggest thing any network TV upfront effort has is scale -- and something less tangible. Marketers may not truly believe it, or admit to it, but they want to be wowed and to have a fix on celebrity eye candy.
Will Charlie Sheen make an appearance? Will Jimmy Kimmel make some biting remarks about TV stars and media executives? And what about the sushi? No sushi! Where's the fun in that?