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Online Upfront Gains Steam With YouTube, Yahoo, Et Al

  |  February 24, 2012   |  Comments

Annual Digitas event enlists AOL, Google/YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

On Wednesday, six digital media giants announced they'll put on their own version of the television upfronts, aiming to raise the profile of digital video and maybe suck up some premium advertising dollars.

AOL, Digitas, Google/YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft Advertising and Yahoo will hold what they're calling Digital Content NewFronts in New York from April 19 to May 2, 2012, with each company hosting its own events and the IAB putting on collateral events and forums.

These Digital Content NewFronts expand on a private event that Digitas has held for its clients since 2008.

"Since then, they've continued to see a high level of interest from advertisers and media companies, so they approached the five major publishers about participating as an industry," said Wayne Powers, Yahoo's SVP of North American sales.

Yahoo has seen significant growth in video. In October 2011, it announced a content alliance with ABC News, and later added a slate of video series geared toward women, featuring talent such as Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me and Judy Greer of Arrested Development. Earlier this week, comedian Bill Maher kicked off the new Yahoo Comedy Channel, part of the recently announced Yahoo Screen portal, that will feature a series of short-form comedy shows.

Yahoo has been riding up and down on this rollercoaster since 2001, when it hired Warner Bros. executive Terry Semel to make the site more TV-like. Yahoo's Santa Monica outpost, created to produce original programming, flopped.

But digital video has arrived, with views reaching a record of 6.2 billion views last June.

According to Forrester Research, digital video ads in the United States will reach at least $5.4 billion by 2016; they accounted for $2 billion in 2011, it said.

And Hollywood talent is looking to the web for more creative control and better deals than those available in conventional show business. In January, Tom Hanks said he would bring his Electric City sci-fi animation project to Yahoo.

Although Yahoo execs reportedly said at the Consumer Electronics Show that they were shopping Electric City ad avails, Powers said the company's goal at its NewFront is to showcase its programming and have meetings with clients and agencies.

"Advertisers will have the opportunity to participate through a sponsorship or display advertising around the actual video content itself," Powers says. "We will have packages or create custom things based on an advertiser's needs or targets."

Yahoo will stick with its current video ad models of sponsorship mentions or display ads, according to Powers, and not emphasize video pre-roll or mid-roll ads.

In addition to new video channels, Yahoo will continue to distribute video throughout its content network, sprinkling it among other content types and targeting it to individual viewers' interests, he said.

Powers would not disclose any details about how deals with content partners like Hanks or Maher are structured. He said that, more and more often, "Those people are reaching out to us."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

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