Commentary

Digital Firms Join The Party, Throw Network-like Upfronts

Think the demise of the upfronts is coming? Well, apparently not for AOL and Yahoo, two of the biggest digital companies out there.

Both companies have put together TV-network-like upfront shows for advertisers over the last several weeks. Yesterday AOL, went a step further than Yahoo, offering up actual TV-like shows for advertisers -- five new interactive programs a month.

Looks like the new medium still wants to be something like the old medium. In theory, why not? Why wouldn’t an AOL, Yahoo, MSN, or of course a Google -- the big four Internet players --  want to get 70% of its advertising commitments upfront, before the “season” started -- rather than piecemeal through the year.

And then there is this fact, according to Wenda Harris Millard, Yahoo's chief sales officer:  "It's not only the digital advertising agencies who are now buying digital," she told the Associated Press.

In reality, digital entertainment businesses need to develop urgent selling periods -- creating buzz and opportunity – like traditional TV. The buzz comes not just from big-time programming ideas, but allowing buyers to rub shoulders with programming executives as well as their competing colleagues.

For years industry experts have called for the demise of upfronts, chiefly because of the somewhat abandoned and crazy trend of buying $9 billon worth of TV inventory in three days -- only to take big “options” in getting out of those commitments later in the year.

That hasn’t happened in a few years, as networks and media agencies have taken a slower approach -- especially with time-consuming integrated media and marketing packages that are in demand from almost all marketers. This year, with the addition of  new measuring metrics -- average minute commercial ratings, DVR viewership, and engagement -- the process would seem to go even more slowly.

New digital companies want a piece of that $9 billion business as well as a piece of that hype. The best idea sometimes is to throw a party, with a big spread and lots of entertainment. Hopefully your friends will bring gifts.

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