Will people watch and advertisers buy in?
Google, at the 83-year-old Beacon Theatre in New York City, pledged to spend up to $200 million to market 100 new YouTube channels. Programs in the works: Wigs, an original dramatic, scripted video series about the lives of women, and Team USA, a program sponsored by AT&T about U.S. Olympians.
Over at the Helen Mills Theater, DBG (Digital Broadcast Group) put a spotlight on its branded entertainment and original video programming such as "Expecting," a video series that follows three women through pregnancy.
And an audience at Highline Stages in the city's Meatpacking District heard about AOL's new video programs. On its roster: "ur+1" (fantasy sports meet celebrity fans) and a fashion/lifestyle show featuring Nina Garcia, fashion director of Marie Claire. AOL then wowed the crowd with its swag: a Ford Mustang convertible, which was won by Jamie Dorfman, a media manager at digital agency 360i.
Over the past two weeks, video distributors, ad technology companies, and media companies have been showing their video chops during the 2012 Digital Content NewFronts programs in New York City. AOL, Google/YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft Advertising, Digitas, and Yahoo are founding partners of the events designed to be digital media's answer to TV Upfronts.
And there was no shortage of novel and familiar programming ideas: reality programs and contests, comedy and satire, behind-the-scenes sports interviews, celebrity news, how-to's, and excerpts and sneak peeks of TV programs. Even puppets that do commentary and man-on-the street interviews for "The Weekly Puppet News" on TheDaily.com. (Pictured, left)
Advertising options ranged from the traditional 0:15 to 0:30 spot to sponsorships and more ambitious branded entertainment.
Spending on digital video advertising totaled $1.8 billion in 2011, an increase of 29 percent over the previous year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau-PwC's annual ad spending report.
If even more money goes to video advertising in 2012, will it be money well spent?
"NewFront is not new at all…it is basically a bunch of people trying to come up with video content that can be distributed online for the purpose of aggregating an audience and then selling ads against," said Augustine Fou, chief digital strategist at Marketing Science Consulting Group, in an email interview. "This is at odds with the trends - consumers want more specialization and uniqueness in the content. The more special and unique it is, the smaller the audience."
Instead, he believes that people will pay for video content - if it's good. And only then will it attract advertisers. And he doesn't rule out the possibility that some shows may become viral hits, attracting sizeable audiences - until interest wanes.
Allison Bohm, partner, digital media investment director, at MediaCom, said the NewFronts were a good venue to exchange ideas, discuss new ad models, and learn about content/programming launches. However, she doesn't anticipate that advertisers will rush into any deals. "At this time, there will likely be few deals executed…there isn't a scarcity of video inventory. Advertisers will likely only execute deals in which they feel strongly synergize with their overall strategies," she said in an email interview.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
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