At NewFronts, The Convergence Between Linear And Digital Takes Center Stage

NewfrontsThe NewFront presentations, which started April 27 and continued through Thursday, showcased the convergence between digital video and linear TV.

As the latter embraces targeting, digital video chases after “premium” in the eyes of buyers.

The deal that epitomizes this merging isn’t yet official: Vice Media’s plans to take over a channel of one of its investors, A&E Networks. It would give one of digital video’s biggest stars a foothold in traditional TV as buyers could access Vice all the way from linear TV to YouTube.

Vice was mostly vague about distribution plans for its programming, mentioning a “channel” without specifying if it was digital or linear.

Greg Manago, who leads creative development and production for Mindshare Content+ and Entertainment, speculated that Vice’s goal, like that of other digital players, is to develop content that works across all screens.

If the deal goes through and Vice executes successfully, expect more content from other media companies designed to cross from linear to digital and vice versa.

Online video companies “can benefit from adding linear TV to their portfolio, and I think national TV programmers need to stop relying on multiscreen distribution and think about striking agreements with the [online video] celebrities, “ said Kris Magel, chief investment officer for Interpublic’s Initiative.

One big difference between digital video and linear TV is length. Linear TV falls into 30-minute and one-hour buckets and digital video doesn’t.

There’s a perception among both advertisers and video owners that long-form programming by nature of being long-form is a premium product that requires a premium price, said Harvin Furman, the SVP of digital acceleration for Starcom.

YouTube and BuzzFeed are “trying to change the dialogue around premium content,” Furman said. “It’s not just long-form, it’s what consumers are relating most to.”

If long-form programming has the perception of premium, short-form content has the young, engaged audiences.

“If you look across national TV ad-supported landscape, there’s not a lot of love for younger audiences,” Magel said. “Younger audiences really have embraced these [online] personalities and have this wonderful connection.”

What buyers ultimately want is “quality viewed impressions around quality content at scale,” said Furman, adding that Starcom’s clients are beginning to recognize that content forms and types are evolving with the distribution methods.

Measurement Meets In The Middle

As more agencies, including Starcom, buy video from a channel-agnostic perspective, they need to reconcile the different measurement approaches of linear TV and online video.

Buyers with digital backgrounds want to understand who’s watching and where content is going, Furman said. “Whereas [with] TV, you have standardized, premium content and are less specific about the audience.”

To bridge those diverging points of view for buyers, content creators are giving buyers more options to understand and measure digital video audiences.

Hulu toes the line by using both TV-favored Nielsen and digital-favored comScore for measurement.

“Just like you have all the houses in ‘Game of Thrones’ battling for the throne, you have a lot of measurement techniques and tools battling to be supreme over all the others,” Manago said. “We’re still trying to find in the marketing business one metric that will rule them all.”

Vevo uses Nielsen to prove scale. At its NewFront presentation, it cited data showing that Taylor Swift’s “Style” video reached 8.6% of young females, the second-highest that week and higher than network shows “Empire,” “Scandal” or “The Big Bang Theory.”

But if digital video is trying its best to close the quality and scale gap, TV is far from closing the targeting gap. “There’s parity in terms of what they consider is quality content,” Furman said. “Where they diverge is you have a TV marketplace that’s not as addressable as the digital marketplace.”

In the upfronts, starting next week, it remains to seen if networks will make closing that addressability gap part of their sales pitch.

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