Why Some Media Companies Are Pulling Back on the NewFronts

Are the NewFronts at a crossroads?

Several big media companies, including AOL, BuzzFeed and Fullscreen, have either pulled out of the NewFronts or scaled back their plans considerably.

Even though others have signed on take their place—including the BBC and LittleThings—some digital media executives are beginning to question whether the marathon of presentations to advertisers have lived up to their initial promise.

The NewFronts were created in 2012 as digital media’s answer to the TV upfronts, the annual week of festivities when channels try to secure advertising commitments for their upcoming slate of programming. Since then, the top companies in digital media have been hosting splashy sales presentations in New York each spring, trying to create an ad buying marketplace for web video series and ideally get advertisers to shift their budgets away from TV.

Doug Ray, president of product and innovation at Dentsu Aegis Network, said that when the NewFronts were started, big marketers needed help understanding the web video marketplace. That mission has largely been accomplished, he said, particularly as giant platforms like YouTube,

Facebook

and Snapchat have become video powerhouses.

“What clients are looking for is scale,” he said. “There are very few digital video platforms that can truly deliver premium video content at scale. Therefore, [are] the NewFronts, where you’ve got dozens of suppliers rolling out and having conversations with clients…really needed anymore?”

The Digital Content NewFronts have ballooned from half a dozen presenters to a two-week schedule packed with more than 30 participating companies, with this year’s events taking place the first two weeks of May.

But since the initial 2017 schedule was released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in December, there have been a growing number of big name departures. BuzzFeed and

Yahoo

have dropped out, and recent participants like Stylehaul opted not to return. More recently, the web video firm Fullscreen ditched its NewFront plans in exchange for a series of smaller presentations with agencies, while rival video firm Studio71 elected to stream an event rather than hosting a live one. Just this week, Machinima, which is now owned by Warner Bros., dropped out and said it would share plans with advertisers early this summer.

Each company seems to have its own rationale. For example, Yahoo—which is in the midst of being acquired by

Verizon

—is planning to host a series of local sales presentations with marketers and agencies. Similarly, BuzzFeed is planning a separate event for advertisers outside of the NewFront calendar.

Perhaps most noteworthy was AOL’s decision to opt for a low-key, invite-only client…

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