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Digital a Big Part of ABC’s Upfront Message

Jimmy Kimmel’s jokes about the advertising business might be the annual highlight of ABC’s upfront presentation, but the network takes its digital seriously.

Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, told advertisers and media buyers about the Watch ABC app, which will live-stream the network 24 hours a day, seven days a week to authenticated cable subscribers. Adopting new technology “adds value and strength to our business,” she said, combining “the best of broadcast with the dynamics of digital.”

Kimmel’s take on digital’s impact on the TV business was a bit more irreverent. “It used to be that you watched TV on your couch and Web videos were something you watched on the toilet. Now you can watch everything on your toilet,” he said.

For Geri Wang, president of sales and marketing for ABC, who last year introduced ABC Unified, one-stop shopping for ABC content on every screen, Watch ABC “marks the beginning of TV Everywhere.”

Wang said ABC Unified reaches viewers online, on demand and on Hulu where the median age is significantly lower than on traditional broadcast.  “More and more, this is how younger viewers are watching our shows,” she said. “They are the future of ABC and the future of your brands.”

She also offered proof in the form of a cross-platform study that looked at two ABC buys, one on the broadcast network alone, the other with ABC Unified, using the same budgets, target audiences, flighting and programming.  With Unified, reach increased against adults 18-49, the campaign found significantly more younger viewers, had higher frequency with those young viewers and had a lower campaign media age.

“We delivered youth. We delivered scale. In the best programming anywhere,” Wang concluded.

Wang said ABC was launching a pilot programming with Nielsen to measure tablet and smartphone video ads on mobile apps. She also said ABC will work with clients to leverage the social activity around its shows.

Kimmel didn’t seem impressed.  He said ABC Unified “means you can spend less time figuring out how to allocate your ad buy across multiple platforms and more time doing whatever the hell else you people do.” He added that it was a “new made-up way for us to take your money.”

Ad buyers were more impressed. “ABC presented everything well,” said Antony Young, CEO of Mindshare North America. “They seemed to have a lot of good product.”

He added that ABC has consistently talked about its approach to digital and has successfully been able to brand it.

Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2013

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