Commentary

Digital Content NewFronts Poised to Drive Digital Dollars Past $1 Billion

I stand corrected.

Or rather, I’m ready to stand corrected.

For many years I’ve been quite a doubting Thomas about digital upfronts, saying the industry doesn’t need them, that there’s no scarcity, and that efforts to create an upfront for anything other than TV have failed.

But you know what? I might be wrong.

To be sure, efforts from a few years back to craft upfronts around cable video-on-demand failed. There wasn’t enough interest.

And yes, there is less scarcity in online video inventory than in TV inventory, but at the rate consumers are relying on new devices, from tablets to smartphones, there’s no question anymore that a strong scaffolding is what will help drive even more dollars from TV to digital video. The Digital Content NewFronts provide just that:  a strong, solid foundation for online video. Started by Digitas in 2009, the event has grown and now falls under the aegis of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which will host the week-long event this year from April 29 to May 3.

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This years’s digital video upfront is already expected to draw more than $1 billion in ad spend, according to several published reports. That’s up from hundreds of millions last year, and buyers say it’s because they’re finally moving meaningful dollars away from TV. In addition, the IAB said this week that digital video dollars rose 29% in 2012 to a $2.3 billion haul, up from $1.8 billion in 2011.

Then there’s the lineup for the Digital Content NewFronts. The six founding media partners -- AOL, Digitas, Google, Hulu, Microsoft Advertising and Yahoo --will host events that feature native digital video content. Native video is one of the most buzzed-about topics in the ad business, and online video can do the sort of branded integration that native video thrives on better than most mediums. Plus, IAB has nabbed print publishers, digital startups and networks. About 18 distributors will present, a three times increase over last year, with presenters including Alloy Digital, CBS Interactive and Disney Interactive.

There will likely be some flash at the event, but that’s not what’s going to make this year’s NewFronts stand out. It’s the numbers, it’s the growth, and it’s the widespread industry backing that stretches from Web giants to TV players. This isn’t just a tacked-on event. This isn’t about TV upfront coattails. This year’s event stems from real money pouring into digital video because that’s where consumers have gone.

As Ooyala said in a recent report, “‘Online Video’ is quickly becoming 'Online Television.’ Audiences want to watch full length TV shows on all of their connected screens.” In March, 77% of the time spent watching mobile video was with content longer than 10 minutes -- like movies, sporting events and TV shows, Ooyala said. In addition, 47% of all broadcast tablet video viewed was a half hour to an hour long.

Finally, I’m sure your kids, like mine, aren’t watching that much network TV anymore. But they are watching YouTube and more on your iPad.

 

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