Are The NewFronts Suited To Our Fragmented Media Landscape?

On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Jay Prasad, chief strategy officer at VideoAmp.

Since the debut of the NewFronts several years ago, media channels have proliferated, new content formats have bloomed and we use technology to consume content anywhere. Thus, marketers now face the challenge of reaching the right consumers in the right numbers at the right time, while publishers must capture attention and offer solutions to meet these needs.

Technology is helping to solve the problem. The buy side is investing in ever more sophisticated tools that unlock new insights about consumers and their digital journeys. We know more about them now than we ever have.

Yet if technology allows us to connect with a million individuals in a million different places, where does all this leave the big media players that have traditionally been the gatekeepers of big audiences?

The NewFronts originated from the need for big digital publishers to have a place to showcase original digital content to advertisers. In today’s omnichannel environment, do the NewFronts still have a significant role to play in our industry?

The answer is yes. The traditional media channels are still relevant, powerful and connected to consumers at scale. Content and context remain paramount as they determine trust and attention while increasing advertising impact.

However, years after the NewFronts began, creators and influencers now attract big audiences on social platforms with virtually no production budgets, and they release content daily. This changes the importance of highly produced content that comes out during a specific time frame.

EMarketer recently increased its Snapchat US usage projections for 2017 by more than 5%, with more than about 70 million Americans using the platform. Networks increasingly are turning to year-round premieres and first-run episodes. Services like T-Mobile now offer free data plans for users to watch video content on the go and, of course, the offering is readily available via over-the-top (OTT) and smart TV.

Last, and certainly not least, the quality of on-demand-only shows has improved exponentially; just look at notable hit shows like “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” “Stranger Things,” “Man in the High Castle” and “Transparent,” to name just a few.

The current trend in how content is being released to consumers makes it clear that the way ads are transacted is not sustainable in the long run. Competition between media channels isn’t a zero-sum game and attention is not a finite resource. The power of cross-channel advertising shows that by understanding the relationship between channels, advertisers and media owners can ensure that all boats rise at once.

The game, then, is not just about a single media property delivering a large audience – all channels play a role in building that audience. And putting that sort of schedule together, using trusted channels for quality content, is more likely to ensure an advertising response that delivers a real commercial return for brands.

In this world of audience fragmentation, the foundation of marketers’ media strategies will have to be built first on finding, aggregating and communicating with specific people, not funding specific content.

Therefore, the NewFronts may no longer be as relevant in the digital + TV + OTT world to base a foundation of a media strategy around picking great content. Media buying will look more like audience discovery for specific consumers, and the content needs to be dynamic and liberated across devices.

Yes, many say that this method is how good media planning and buying has always been done. However, those who live and do business in this world day in and day out know that there is an enormous chasm between what some people say they do and what they actually do.

Does a future like this mean that content will no longer matter? The opposite is happening with a clear flight to quality, and there has never been so much great content being produced. That’s why television and video content companies are delivering such great financial results these days. In this attention-scarce media world, those who can deliver audiences at scale are in a great spot.

However, as fragmentation continues, content quality and media owners’ ability to match audience data with it will be critical to marketers, seen more clearly as a means to an end in the ad media world, not so much the end itself, which is the role it largely enjoys today.

It’s not the communal experience of old, but in our fragmented, digital world it turns out that some things haven’t changed quite as much as we feared. Since we need things to change if we are to evolve, let’s start with the NewFronts.

 Follow Jay Prasadi (@Jayin3D), VideoAmp (@Video_Amp) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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