Programmatic is Key to Keeping NewFronts Relevant


Marketers and agencies have loved the TV Upfronts for decades because they showcase new content for brands, and allow them to buy commercial time to reach their target. They’re easy, and ratings allow buyers to validate whether or not those buys were successful. Digital has tried to capture this magic via the NewFronts as a seamless way to adapt those traditional, large media buys from a familiar landscape to a newer landscape — digital. TV has passed the torch to digital premium, right?

Well, Yes and No.

The rise of digital premium demonstrates TV is no longer the discrete channel it once was, but instead are baked together today. Digital gives marketers opportunities for brand integrations, sponsorships and custom ad formats, analogous to what marketers knew in traditional TV. The only missing piece is that these buys aren’t programmatic or data-driven. Content is one proxy for an audience, but brands know it doesn’t tell the entire story. Our research shows that when evaluating NewFronts offering, 70% of advertisers consider audience data and access to content relevant to their audience just as important as content and programming itself.

Programmatic Game-Changer

In a digital environment, particularly in programmatic buying and selling, we have game-changing data and insights for advertisers. Programmatic allows brands to tap into rich audience data and leverage it to find consumers across all publishers and content providers.

While guarantee buys still matter, now brands increasingly expect more. They want to buy dynamically in real time from inventory sources that deliver granular targeting at scale. While the NewFronts treat digital like TV’s branding equal, marketers want to take advantage of the data science around these buys, to consider crucial factors like real-time audience behavior, device-specific user experience, and proper measurement of effectiveness. And furthermore, when asked about the benefit of programmatic buying, a large majority of advertisers now understand it can also enable them to buy high quality content and not just low-cost inventory.

Therefore programmatic should start playing a crucial role at the NewFronts, especially as digital channels are increasingly becoming a key element of content production and distribution.

Where’s the Competition Coming From?

NewFronts content producers should realize they’re competing less with each other and the Upfronts, and increasingly with tech companies like Amazon, Google and Netflix whose data drives distribution and placement of advertising to the right audience, at the right time, under the right conditions. These are companies that have massive amounts of user data and know how to leverage it, in real time. In the end, digital content creation may actually be the easiest piece of the puzzle, with talent and production facilities spilling far beyond Hollywood. The winners in digital video will be the first to process and truly leverage data – the promise of programmatic.

The best thing about programmatic is that it allows for conditions subjective to audience behavior over time and user experience. Programmatic is fueled by current data, which gives it a competitive edge in the fast-changing digital environment. These buys may never be as easy as TV but they will have more impact if only for the fact that they combine scale with valuable audience engagement.

eMarketer forecasts that 65% of digital video ads will be transacted programmatically by 2017, so while Upfront guarantees may still matter to traditional television advertisers, marketers and agencies increasingly expect flexibility. As of today, while only a third of them say they intend on making a guaranteed commitment based on what they saw at a NewFronts presentation, over 40% plan to access this content via programmatic channels.

The TV Upfronts were created as a tactic to incentivize advertisers to commit to television media buys as early as possible. They have since tried to become more like their digital counterpart by pitching audience-based buying, and other capabilities, while the NewFronts are trying to evolve past what has traditionally been a content showcase, and prove to advertisers the true value of reaching audiences online. The lines between TV and online video are blurring as all content is becoming packaged as video that can be viewed across all screens.


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