Sneak Preview: A NewFronts' Sneaker Review

For a journalist on the TV beat, the spring newfront/upfront season presents an annual opportunity to check in with the industry right at that moment when ad sales rubber hits the content road.

While taking in this week’s IAB NewFronts virtually from the comfort of my home office, a number of observations occur to me.

Some may seem trivial, but from the attire to the jargon, it all helps to paint a picture of where we’re at now.

No matter what their age, male execs on the NewFront stages almost invariably wear suits, dress shirts with no ties and those sneaker shoes.

To my untrained eyes, women’s attire varies a bit more than the men’s.

Some jargon is new in the presentations, and some of it has been around awhile.

I first noted the overwrought use of “doubling down” a number of years ago. I heard it at least twice in Tuesday's NewFronts as in, “We’re doubling down on [insert content category here]!”

The words “storytelling” and “storytellers” are still used frequently when presenters talk about themselves and/or the companies they represent.

This skill, they say, helps them create content, both scripted and unscripted, that enables their subscribers/viewers to “make connections with characters.” Some version of this was heard during Tuesday’s Peacock presentation.

In the TV biz, this connection between viewer and character has now come to be known as a space called “fandom.”

That word was heard in the Peacock presentation and, if memory serves, at the AMC Upfront last month in New York. 

I have a personal fondness generally for the original content on Peacock, so I liked how Susan Rovner, chairman of entertainment content for NBCUniversal television and streaming, positioned Peacock’s content development.

“We make entertainment that is entertaining,” she said, meaning that Peacock is not in the business of making dark comedies and dark, apocalyptic dramas like all the rest of TV these days.

“Privacy first” and “safety checks” were phrases I heard during the last act of the Snap Inc. NewFront on Tuesday, when Rob Wilk -- president, Americas -- closed the presentation with his announcement of "My AI," Snapchat’s new generative AI assistant.

Privacy first and safety checks are worthy goals. 

“Conversational AI” was one of the attributes of "My AI" that he mentioned. As examples of what "My AI" can do for its users, he used it to search on his phone for a restaurant where he could hold a birthday party for 13 guests.

He also suggested he could then ask it for help composing a speech he might make in honor of the person whose birthday was to be celebrated.

This elicited a cheeky comment in the chat box that is positioned to the right of the IAB NewFronts’ live video screen.

“Is it me, or does it feel that at least 50% of everyone’s script has been written by ChatGPT?” wrote one unidentified observer.

It is true that the scripted parts of upfront and newfront presentations that are read off teleprompters can sometimes seem a bit stilted. But I am reasonably sure they are not yet being written by AI.

For me, the NewFronts are an introduction to the ways in which visual media, particularly in social media and video sharing on sites such as TikTok and Snapchat, are curating unique audiences for targeted messages that they produce in partnership with clients.

These videos are then “seeded” (my term) into the video-sharing ecosystem where they blend almost seamlessly with all the other content on these platforms that is not marketing or advertising. At least, this is how I interpret it.

“Snapchatters average 40 times a day opening Snapchat,” was one of the factoids I picked up from the Snap NewFront. To me, this is TV of the future that is right here in the present.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications