Digital video advertising sellers are pretty full of themselves as the annual NewFronts start Monday and run through Thursday.
After a pandemic that accelerated streaming in general and connected TV usage in particular, digital video sellers are no longer pitching their products as just targeting vehicles or reach extenders. No, they’ve gone mainstream, insisting that digital video is now the primary way to reach viewers.
“TV is aging and viewership is shrinking,” said Julian Mintz, national brand sales lead at Roku, told Broadcasting + Cable. “Streaming is significantly increasingly, fueled largely by young audiences. Consequently, marketers are starting to more and more start their TV upfront experience with Roku. Not just with streaming but with Roku.”
In early conversations, “our advertisers are looking to spend 20% to 30% more” with Roku in this upfront than last year.
Roku, which leads off the NewFronts with its presentation on Monday, might be a bit premature in dancing on the grave of linear broadcast and cable television. On the other hand, it might have a point.
”It’s well documented that the shift to streaming was well underway before the pandemic,” said Brian Albert, managing director, U.S. agency video, Google, pointing to the falling ratings for events like the Super Bowl and record-low viewing of the Oscars.
“It’s no big surprise more and more people are cutting the cord,” he said, noting that pay TV subscribers are down to the mid 70 million level, a level unseen since the mid-1990s. At the same time, “streaming is booming...as the media mix shifts to more streaming, we’re more excited about the value we can bring to clients.”
For Matt Sweeney, chief investment officer for GroupM, shifting spending to streaming is nothing new.
“If you look at the percentage of our upfront investment that goes to those data-driven digital, or the streaming extensions from traditional media companies, that’s growing, and will continue to grow,” Sweeney said last month at the Advanced Advertising Summit, produced by B+C’s parent company Future plc.
“There are more ad-supported streaming products being launched,” Sweeney said. “We hope there will be a chance to backfill some of the commercial time lost in traditional linear.”
The IAB said that digital video revenue increased 20.6% to $26.2 billion in 2020. And a survey it conducted found that buyers expect digital video, including over-the-top and connected TV, to have the highest share of media budgets at 20%. That compares to 18% for linear broadcast and cable TV.
For a second year, NewFront presentations will be conducted virtually. In addition to old-guard digital video companies like YouTube, Roku and Amazon, smart set makers are making presentations urging advertisers to buy ads directly on their devices.
“In 2020, we saw time spent on our televisions in streaming environments more than double. And as one of the top selling smart TV brands on the market today, we’re well positioned to capture and capitalize on the growing trend,” said Adam Bergman, VP, advertising sales at Vizio.
“Dollars are shifting out of linear and into streaming. A big reason for this is that the connected TV combines all of the benefits of television, premium video content delivered via a large screen in a brand safe environment, but with all the benefits of digital, like precise targeting and measurement,” he said.
Advertisers benefit from buying ad directly from devices because “we own the hardware, the operating system and the data flowing through our platform,” he said.
In its presentation Monday, Vizio talks about controlling ad frequency, addressable advertising, new data-driven content and the ability to retarget viewers after they’ve seen a commercial.
Also getting into the act are traditional media companies. Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Charter Communications’ Spectrum Reach, Tubi (now owned by Fox), A+E Networks and Tegna are among this year’s presenters.
“We want to plant our flag and make people know we are a force to be reckoned with on both sides,” said Stacie Danzis, VP, digital ad sales at A+E.
A+E hasn’t launched its own direct-to-consumer streaming service, but it is distributing the content it owns to more digital video outlets, from platforms like Hulu and Pluto TV to device makers like Samsung.
“We can get all audiences out there, whether they be cable subscribers, cord cutters, cord nevers or really that coveted younger audience,” Danzis said.
Reaching that audience that’s not watching traditional TV is what the NewFronts is all about. And being watched on the living room screen is even better.
“Half our audience is cord nevers or cord cutters,” said Jesse Judelman, senior VP of sales, Americas, at music video service Vevo.
“We’re quickly becoming a modern day TV network with digital roots,” said Judelman. “Advertisers are viewing us that way.”
Vevo offers brand-safe content that’s increasingly viewed by multiple members of the household in the living room. It can sell its viewers by demographic, by matching geographies and genres, or even contextually through the mood of videos.
“Though we have incredible scale, there is a limit to our inventory. There is actual real scarcity, similar to a television network,” Judelman said, adding that Vevo will sell 85% to 90% of its inventory in the upfront market.
“We had a banner year even during the pandemic,” he said. “We're preparing for altogether, new level in ‘22, ‘23, and beyond.”
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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