We hear that traditional programmers -- broadcast, cable, and syndication -- are still doing upfront business. (Aren’t we almost in August?) Their efforts are yielding nice but ho-hum, mid-single-digit percentage increases over last year. (Hard-fought, no doubt).
Still, networks claim they have big-impact, engageable program assets that other media do not. Marketers will come around, they say.
But now another upfront is coming -- in September! Pushed by none other than AOL, it will occur during Advertising Week. AOL wants some 150 advertisers and big-time digital platforms to strike deals for its “programmatic upfront.” But “program,” in its traditional TV sense, might not be a key word.
To marketers these days, programmatic means automation -- so called, real-time media buying. AOL believes automation -- using machines to bid and buy media -- will be key to future growth. This is an area where digital media purveyors are already well entrenched.
But wait a second. Didn’t the “Newfronts” take place back in March?
Supposedly, that event was only about the big digital players – like AOL, Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Hulu -- looking to usurp the traditional TV upfront selling period.
AOL would now like the same thing to happen in mid-September -- when, in theory, digital media purveyors will have marketer and media agency attention all to themselves. In theory, it makes sense. In practice, not so much.
Programmatic buying -- which for many means steeply discounted media buying -- is one thing. Valuable TV-like program assets and scarcity are a different matter. Are online programming assets really so “scarce” that media buyers and marketers need to rush out and buy an original online series -- say 10 episodes, each lasting four to six minutes, with perhaps not the best production qualities?
Again, for many there is no rush -- just as they can wait until late August to start buying mid-level, mid-rated cable networks.
On Sept. 23, only a couple of weeks before media buyers will be finishing the last of their cable network deals, AOL will host the first programmatic upfront.
So perhaps it isn’t another upfront -- just a continuation.