Digital Video Dollars Get Big Talk This Upfront, But Action Is Lacking

Another upfront means yet another chance to bring digital video into the conversation as an important mover and shifter. Good news: Everybody is talking. Bad news: Everybody is just talking.

As they had done in the past, last week’s network presentations touted digital video efforts.  But there’s slim likelihood of seeing major changes during this upfront, according to media buyers.

The upfront market will pull in around $21 billion this year for the national TV players and an overall $70 billion for all traditional TV platforms. Digital video is estimated to land at around $3.5 billion or so.

Specifically, upfront presentations by the major cable and broadcast networks talked about the power of social media, which speaks to the word marketers and network   executives still like to bandy about: engagement.

But the inking of mass-scale integration deals is still far away. John Muszynski, chief investment officer of SMG Exchange (SMGX), told TV Watch that many networks still don’t offer true integration. Instead, many “force” consumers into digital and social platforms.

Still, Muszynski said, social media has good promise in giving more value to marketers’ traditional TV media plans. But other than some isolated deals, it’s not there yet. In that SMGX represents about 25% or more of all TV buying, these observations have some weight.

The idea of straight-ahead digital video is easier to get into one’s head than deals that combine traditional TV and digital video. A somewhat easier-to-digest theory is that “video is video.”

Everyone has broached this area, including CW (directly combining traditional TV and digital video inventory) and more recently Fox (asking marketers to voluntarily submit to 10% of their overall audience guarantee coming via digital video platforms). ABC says it will also join the hunt this year.

But a boost to significant digital video media revenues won’t really happen. We all know why: Cross-platform measurement is still lacking, and will be so for some time. With no new “currency” afoot yet, clients will stick to what they know.

Without a true new currency – something TV marketers are more adamant about than new digital platforms – big-time growth won’t happen. For the most part, the digital world will be left out of the upfront loop.

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