Online … and Upfront

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On Tuesday, AOL will stage its first upfront presentation in an effort to explain its programming strategy to traditional media buyers and preview developing series for their clients get in on.

The Time Warner-owned Internet company will use its stage show to promote two types of programming: content from other Time Warner properties, like celebrity-gotcha site TMZ.com, and AOL series in the vein of last year's Gold Rush, the Mark Burnett-produced online treasure hunt that integrated advertising and was cross-promoted on CBS.

AOL's upfront comes under orders from Chairman/CEO Randy Falco, the former president/COO of NBC Universal TV Group who joined the company in November 2006. It also comes as Internet properties continue to claim more ad dollars each year: While network-TV advertising is expected to be flat this year, Internet spending is projected to grow by 13.4%, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Although executives would not reveal specific titles at press time, Kathy Kayse AOL executive VP of sales and partnership alliances, describes them as “wet-cement-type propositions”—that is, concepts ripe for product integrations and sponsorship.

“We should have a seat at the table and be showing and sharing our content as much as the networks do,” says Kayse.

AOL executives have spent the past several months touring media agencies in six cities, offering an “under-the-hood” look at how the company generates content for its channels. For example, stories on the news site are prioritized in part based on what consumers are messaging about. They also discussed their plans to build scale and behavioral targeting.

AOL has spent months inviting guests to the presentation and plans to host more than 500 people, including senior clients and agency executives, as well as analysts and reporters. Time Warner President/COO Jeff Bewkes will attend alongside Falco, AOL Media Networks President Mike Kelly, AOL Media Networks Senior VP Janet Balis, AOL Executive VP of Programming Bill Wilson, and Lynda Clarizio, president of AOL unit Advertising.com.

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