“Newfronts Poised for $1B” – What’s in a ‘billion’?

/ Apr 8, 2013

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The second annual Digital Content Newfronts, which are scheduled to begin at the end of the month, could bring in as much as $1 billion in new deals for the participating presenters, Ad Age reported today.

A billion dollars.

Forget the fact that the number, if true, would be the total sum of 18 or so different presentations. At face value, a billion dollars sounds very television-like, doesn’t it? It should be cause for excitement — an indication that the online video business, warts and all, is tracking well.

But then you get to the rest of the Ad Age article, and you realize how that number doesn’t mean exactly what you think it should. Well, that is, if your concern is the growth of original online video programming industry.

This year’s Newfront lineup includes the six “founding partners” (AOL, Digitas, Hulu, Microsoft Advertising, Yahoo, and YouTube), as well as several others who also presented last year (Alloy Digital, Disney Interactive, and Vevo). All have made heavy commitments to producing original programming native to the web, and all should absolutely be present during Newfront Week. Even some of the newer faces in the lineup, including Blip, Crackle, Conde Nast, and Univision, belong.

Then you have Zynga. And blogging network SpinMedia. Two companies not exactly known for producing web series. Why are they there? Because, as Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, tells Ad Age, this year’s Newfronts “are about content and not just video.” Which is to say, if you’re producing content on the web, regardless of if it’s video or not, you’re more than welcome to pay the $30,000 it takes to be part of the official Newfront calendar.

Suddenly, that $1 billion has a different ring to it.

Video might, and probably will, still take up a huge chunk of it. But the Newfronts this year won’t be video-centric, something that’s been a huge cause for concern among many invested in the future of online video programming. Video will just be one of many “formats” (as Rothenberg says) available to advertisers during this year’s shows.

Meanwhile, video is the only “format” available at TV upfronts — you know, those things the Newfronts were supposed to be modeled after.

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