NewFronts: Digital Pubs Act More Like TV

TVYouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds on mobile alone than any cable network or broadcaster, said Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, during Google’s glitzy Brandcast event Thursday night in New York City.

She cited MAGNA Global’s $250 million upfront commitment to Google Preferred as evidence of the shift of brand TV dollars to digital.

YouTube then brought out National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver, who explained why the NBA ranks YouTube right up there with traditional TV.

“Our NBA channel is the home for basketball highlights,” Silver said, noting the league will make all NBA footage uploaded to YouTube ad-supported now through Google Preferred Sports. “YouTube’s support for 360-degree video and VR creates an immersive experience that will drive deeper and deeper engagement with brands.”

Toyota is one brand hoping YouTube provides a unique dynamic between fans and content creators.

The auto manufacturer used to bucket YouTube spend within its “blue sky” budget, or the 10% it allocated to experimental tests. About 20% of budgets typically went to investments Toyota viewed as “calculated risks” while 70% went to “tried and true” marketing methods.

“Today YouTube is part of our core 70% and we’re never looking back,” said Jack Hollis, group VP of Toyota marketing at Toyota Motor Sales. “Our relationship with our guests often begins online. As a CMO today, you’re not just trying to close a one-time sale.”

The brands that win today build relationships with the consumer, Hollis said, which is why he claims Toyota increased its investment in Google Preferred 400% in the last year. 

AOL’s Mobile And Live Video Pitch

NewFront1While Google argued YouTube is beginning to attract considerable TV budgets from networks themselves, AOL aims to recreate the idea of a traditional network. This distinction is important, since digital ad space, unlike linear TV, is not reserved in advance.

For instance, AOL is making live video a major selling point and launched a dedicated studio called BUILD – which also creates 360-degree video and virtual reality experiences.

Beyond its new studio, AOL also touts its mobile backbone.

“The disruption of mobile is having a downstream impact on the content consumers have access to,” said Brian Angiolet, SVP of consumer products for Verizon, during AOL-Verizon’s NewFronts presentation on Tuesday.

AOL’s parent Verizon predicts it will benefit from a combination of live and mobile viewing, along with a blend of original and partner content.

AOL is trying to spur content creation on its platform via mobile photo-sharing app Kanvas Labs, a recent purchase that has 2.5 million live users and in which CEO Tim Armstrong said AOL will continue to invest.

“[It’s] an asset we will build for the future that allows consumers to upload live video and openly edit them,” he said.

For partner content, Verizon’s Go90 combines short-form mobile video with network content through licensing agreements with Viacom, Scripps and Hearst.

NewFront3AOL also creates its own original content for Go90 by working with video networks like AwesomenessTV, Angiolet said: “This is creating a new network for a new generation.”

That new generation is also a big selling point AOL hopes to leverage. It boasts of a large millennial audience, noting that consumers stream about 100 million hours of live video per day across its platforms and on AOL alone, there are 189 million monthly video views.

AOL would have you believe it’s paying off, as Armstrong noted that since its acquisition by Verizon last year, AOL has closed 10 major deals, related to both ads (including its takeover of Microsoft’s advertising business) and acquisitions (like Kanvas Labs).

BuzzFeed’s Distributed Strategy

BuzzFeed is using its viral successes and new TV alliances to prove it’s a brand play.

“We have always been known for making big viral hits, but what’s exciting to me is this is the first time we have metrics that are comparable to TV,” said BuzzFeed’s founder and CEO, Jonah Peretti, at the publisher’s NewFront on Monday.

A Facebook Live video of BuzzFeed staffers wrapping a watermelon with rubber bands until it popped banked 800,000 concurrent live viewers. “That 800,000 is the first time we started to have Internet TV compare to traditional TV,” he said.

BuzzFeed hopes to convince advertisers it’s more than its own dot-com property and apps. Twenty-seven percent of BuzzFeed’s traffic comes from native Facebook video, 23% comes from direct-to-site or apps, 21% from Snapchat, 14% from YouTube and 6% from general Facebook traffic.

“If something is doing incredibly well on our site, we’ll produce a video for YouTube,” Peretti said. “If it does well on YouTube, we extend it to Snapchat or Facebook. We learn from a market, then create a new market.”

BuzzFeed is also banking on new media investments from broadcaster NBCUniversal, which made a $200 million handshake with the publisher last August.

NewFront4“It’s still in the early stages of this partnership, but from sponsoring to integrating and creating content, the combined force of NBC and BuzzFeed is part of our [brand] solution,” said Greg Coleman, president of BuzzFeed. “We’ve made dozens of sales calls integrating the two brands for the marketing community, and it’s a big part of our go-to-market strategy for 2016.”

With more dollars seemingly ebbing toward larger “upfront” commitments in digital video, could they eventually counter programmatic or audience-based buys?

“Facebook and Google have O&O that’s large enough to command that [upfront] attention but even then, it won’t be a majority of their revenue,” predicted Bill Day, the CEO of the video ad tech company Tremor. “Upfronts in digital video are a component of what happens, but it won’t be the majority of what happens in the industry nor for us.”

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