As a new wave of contenders emerges looking for a piece of the projected $7.8 billion in digital video ad spending this year (up 30% from 2014, according to eMarketer), here is a closer look at some of the companies that will be giving presentations at this week’s NewFronts.
MARKET POSITION: As the oldest-school New- Fronts player (the company turns 30 years old next month), AOL is trying to leverage core ad-serving strength with beefed-up original programming.
LEADERSHIP: Tim Armstrong, CEO; Allie Kline, CMO of AOL Advertising.
KEY PROGRAMMING:Connected, AOL’s first long-form series for AOL Original, racked up one million views in its first week. AOL said 15% of the series’ first episodes were seen on over-the- top devices. Connected is a docu-drama based on an Israeli series that looks at American life through the eyes of extraordinary New Yorkers. Last year, AOL streamed Park Bench, a series in which Steve Buscemi chats with Boardwalk Empire costars and others in the arts. It received an Emmy nomination for short-form non-fiction programming.
AD PROFILE: Earlier this month introduced One by AOL, an ad platform that will used data sources to show marketers how consumers are reacting to their ads and allow them to compare return on investment across media, including television and mobile. AOL has purchased several ad tech companies, including Adap.tv, bought in 2013 for $405 million. AOL and GroupM Entertainment this month announced a partnership to create original Web series for global audiences. Series will be commissioned in the U.K., but distributed globally by AOL On.
MARKET POSITION: Founded in 2011, the multichannel network has more than 900 YouTube channels and delivers more than a billion views per month. German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1’s Red Arrow Entertainment bought a 20% stake in Collective Digital Studio in 2014. The network has made its mark on long-form digital entertainment with Video Game High School.
LEADERSHIP: Michael Green, cofounder and chairman; Reza Izad, CEO; Dan Weinstein, president.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Channels including Epic Meal Time, The Annoying Orange and FRED, as well as creators Rhett & Link, and Freddie Wong, top the CDS slate. Wong’s Video Game High School entered its third and final season last October. Each episode was released weekly, but viewers could pay to watch the full season at once. All three seasons have landed on Netflix.
AD PROFILE: In 2014, Collective Digital Studio worked with Purina to create content for its YouTube channel Petcentric. It has helped produce content for several companies on their YouTube channels, including Bobbi Brown’s I Love Makeup.
MARKET POSITION: As with fellow NewFronters Time Inc., The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, CNE is a legacy print company aiming to leverage decades of brand loyalty in the video space. It has ramped up quickly, with 2.5 billion-plus views since launch in 2011.
LEADERSHIP: Dawn Ostroff, president; Sahar Elhabashi, chief operating officer; Lisa Valentino, chief revenue officer; Michael Klein, executive VP of programming and content strategy, digital channels.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Programs fill 18 in-house channels branded for company properties such as The New Yorker, Glamour, GQ, Vogue and Vanity Fair. Partner content is added to the mix on The Scene, a hub for higherend fare from the likes of AOL, BuzzFeed, The Verge and others. The Scene is available online, on mobile and via OTT platforms including Apple TV, Roku and Xbox.
AD PROFILE: A range of blue-chippers from AT&T to Gillette have been integrated into series. Targeted shows like Epicuriosity, produced for CNE site Epicurious, boosted awareness and purchase intent for coffee brand Gevalia.
MARKET POSITION: Alloy Digital and Break Media merged in 2013 to create Defy Media. Defy Media keys in on the ages 13-34 demographic. Its programming generates 500 million video views per month across platforms, 80 million social media followers, 50 million YouTube subscribers and 22 million app downloads. Viacom invested a minority stake in Defy Media in 2014. Defy’s properties have thrived in the comedy, entertainment, gaming and lifestyle verticals on and off YouTube.
LEADERSHIP: Matthew Diamond, CEO; Keith Richman, president; Barry Blumberg, head of content; Andy Tu, executive VP, marketing; Mark Gall, chief revenue officer.
KEY PROGRAMMING: YouTube channel Screen Junkies and its Honest Trailers series (which will celebrate its 100th episode during New- Fronts); Break’s Prank It FWD; and Made Man’s Gentleman Up highlight Defy’s programming. Its largest programming presence comes from Break and SMOSH. SMOSH: The Movie will premiere July 23.
AD PROFILE: Defy’s recent campaigns include a partnership between Break’s Prank It FWD and Barefoot Wines. They partnered for two seasons on the “pranks for good” initiative that has garnered more than 70 million views.
MARKET POSITION: The digital division of Discovery Communications is looking to get out the message that it has a history of creating new formats for online video content with heavy advertiser engagement.
LEADERSHIP: Joe Abruzzese, president of ad sales, Discovery Communications; Sean Atkins, general manager and executive VP, digital media and strategy; Harold Morgenstern, senior VP, national advertising sales.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Discovery Digital has more than a dozen new shows from its Seeker and Super Panic Frenzy sub-brands; TLCme is billed as a new online destination for “busy women.”
AD PROFILE: Discovery Digital Media offers advertisers a range of “Smart Native” solutions that integrate brand authentically into premium Web-native content. For example, Michelob was an early sponsor of Seeker, an online network featuring adventure programming.
MARKET POSITION: The digital arm of the newly combined Endemol Shine, which launched in late 2013, recently gained access to Ryan Seacrest Productions’ unscripted fare in a major deal. Across its overall holdings, and given the global structure of parent Endemol Shine, it looks to mine opportunities for comedy, reality and lifestyle with broad consumer hooks.
LEADERSHIP: Vivi Ziegler, president of digital, brand and audience development, Endemol Shine North America; Endemol Beyond: Will Keenan, president; Jenn Mancini, VP of sales.
KEY PROGRAMMING:Fear Factor, an NBC mainstay in the 2000s, will return as a YouTube series from Endemol Beyond. Pitbull, star of the company’s New Year’s Eve telecast on Fox, also has a deal to develop more digital titles.
AD PROFILE: Given that the U.S. digital unit launched in November 2013 and has had some reorganization since, the news on the ad front will come during the NewFront and beyond.
MARKET POSITION: As a YouTube network founded in January 2011, Fullscreen touts itself as “the first media company for the connected generation.” Last summer during VidCon, CEO and founder George Strompolos announced they were investing $10 million into finding original programming. A few months later, Otter Media (the online video joint venture between The Chernin Group and AT&T), purchased a majority stake in the MCN.
LEADERSHIP: George Strompolos, CEO and founder; Ezra Cooperstein, president and COO; Ashley Kaplan, head of content.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Fullscreen has more than 50,000 content creators that engage with about 450 million subscribers that collectively generate 4 billion monthly views. Among its roster of content creators is social media star Grace Helbig, who just launched a primetime series on the E! network.
AD PROFILE: Fullscreen has partnered with YouTube star Devin Graham (who goes by the name Devin SuperTramp) to create a series of branded adventure sports-centric videos for companies like SpeedStickGear, Mountain Dew, Ford, Intel and Ubisoft.
MARKET POSITION: The Web video giant, which just turned 10, has been working to make big brands more comfortable with its Google Preferred package. The offering includes the most popular YouTube channels and includes guarantees and measurement that’s familiar to television advertisers.
LEADERSHIP: Susan Wojcicki, CEO; Tara Walpert Levy, managing director, agency sales.
KEY PROGRAMMING: While YouTube remains a wide-open forum for all manner of video, from user-generated toss-offs uploaded in bulk to high-budget fi lm and TV fare, it has gotten traction lately by stressing the clout of its homegrown A-list. Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart and Dude Perfect, for example (subjects of a current round of promos and TV commercials), have nearly 9 million subscribers combined.
AD PROFILE: Google says that when Google Preferred viewers are in the market for certain products they are 46% more likely to search a brand on YouTube than other YouTube viewers. They are also more likely to be in the market for a movie, streaming music, a PC or tablet vs. the entire online population.
MARKET POSITION: Hulu was formed in 2007 by NBCUniversal and Fox (with Disney buying in two years later) to take advantage of the nascent market for streaming video. It has navigated the fast-changing landscape by emphasizing both the traditional content strength of its owners and the ways it has disrupted the viewing experience to positive effect. Hulu Plus, the subscription arm created in 2010, has scaled quickly, passing 6 million subscribers in 2014.
LEADERSHIP: Mike Hopkins, CEO; Craig Erwich, senior VP, head of content; Peter Naylor, senior VP, ad sales; Jenny Wall, senior VP, head of marketing.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Hulu has day-after-air rights to shows during their current season, including SNL, Empire, The Blacklist and The Daily Show. Hulu also recently announced groundbreaking deals with top networks including FX, Discovery and ABC for licensing rights to all episodes of current and upcoming series. It closed a syndication deal for CSI. Upcoming originals include 11/22/63 from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King, The Way from Jason Katims, Casual from Jason Reitman, and Difficult People from Amy Poehler and Billy Eichner.
AD PROFILE: Viewers are given a chance to choose the commercial that they want to see, which the company says leads to viewers seeing more relevant ads. Hulu partnered with Media Science and found that its ad units, including Ad Selector and Branded Entertainment Selector, increase unaided brand recall and purchase intent. That means 15- and 30-second commercials are more effective on Hulu, where viewers get a choice, than on linear TV. Ads and integrations for Toyota in the Hulu original East Los High, led to big increases in brand favorability among millennials for its RAV4 model.
MARKET POSITION: In 2014, LIN Digital’s parent company, LIN Media, merged with major station group Media General, extending its reach across traditional broadcast and online media. In recent years, the company has also acquired Federated Media Publishing and Dedicated Media. LIN has a top 15 comScore video network and its Premium Video Network garners 725 million monthly video streams.
LEADERSHIP: John McCarus, chief strategy officer.
KEY PROGRAMMING: LIN Digital isn’t in the high-end originals game, but it offers distribution channels unique to its clients for each campaign and engages audiences across devices, optimized for desktop, mobile and social media. LIN’s video publisher network covers news, lifestyle, native and branded entertainment, and its search engine marketing taps into Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Metrics are reported through its Video Insights Platform, giving the GRPs, CPP and reach and frequency of ads.
AD PROFILE: LIN Digital partnered with an automotive agency to develop a mobile website and banners in promotion of a luxury vehicle. LIN geo-targeted appropriate viewers who lived near a local dealership and targeted auto, news and business sites for the 25-54-year-old male demo. Over a month, the campaign created 2.8 million impressions and a response rate of 0.34% (well above the industry average of 0.21%).
MARKET POSITION: Machinima, a YouTube-oriented digital media company, targets videogamers and fandom culture. Late in 2014 the MCN rebranded itself under a new “Heroes Rise” tagline. The rebrand included a new “leveling” system for content creators, which was broken into three tiers depending on the size of their audience. Machinima closed a $24 million round of financing led by Warner Bros. Entertainment in February, the second such investment over the past year-plus.
LEADERSHIP: Chad Gutstein, CEO; Marc Verville, CFO (joined April 2 from Warner Bros.); Daniel Tibbets, chief content officer; James Glasscock, senior VP, strategy and business development.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Machinima partnered with Warner Bros. on multiple digital video projects, including a second season of the Mortal Kombat: Legacy series and animated limited series Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles.
AD PROFILE: In support of Acura’s release of its 2016 ILX model, AFK Season 4 hit the streets of Boston in March, pitting Machinma’s Realm and ETC hosts against each other in three team competitions. Through ice climbing, go-kart racing and a scavenger hunt, Machinima and Acura showed what happens when you take gamers away from their keyboards.
MARKET POSITION: Created in 2009, Maker was acquired by Disney in 2014 for what could be as much as $950 million. It creates short-form videos that reach millennials and has the largest content network on YouTube. Maker pulls in more than 10 billion views per month and has 650 million subscribers across its channels. The digital network has 55,000 independent creator partners in over 100 countries. Maker can also be found on OTT services like Sling TV.
LEADERSHIP: Ynon Kreiz, president; Erin McPherson, chief content officer; Courtney Holt, chief strategy officer; Ryan Lissack, chief technology officer.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Maker consistently partners with top digital talent, like violinist Lindsey Stirling, but also has made waves with TV talent such as The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman and his Skybound Entertainment. In their partnership through Maker_LAB, Skybound created six-episode series Nerd Court and SuperFight. Disney’s acquisition of Maker also gives it access to Lucasfilm and Marvel properties.
AD PROFILE: BareMinerals partnered with Maker and beauty guru Andrea’s Choice to create a 12-episode series, Beauty Uncovered. The series saw Andrea, who has over 3 million You- Tube subscribers, select six audience members from across the country to receive a makeover.
MARKET POSITION: Formerly known as Glam Media, Mode remains a draw for the style conscious, but also has scale. It is the seventhlargest media company by reach, according to ComScore, with 400 million global monthly visitors. It has newer channels surrounding its Glam flagship, including Foodie, Brash, Tend and Bliss. The company will announce major new distribution capacity at the NewFronts.
LEADERSHIP: Samir Arora, CEO, founder and chairman; Dan Lagani, president and CRO.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Nine original series are produced for the Glam channel. Between 5% and 20% of the overall offering is consumer- facing, with the rest being branded content. The engine is a network of 2,000 vetted creators who curate and contribute material to the network. A relationship with CAA also doesn’t hurt.
AD PROFILE: The company has woven Smartwater into a series of My Life, My Inspiration shorts. Glam’s series Get the Look showcased Sears.
MARKET POSITION: Founded in the 1990s as a scenester print magazine in Montreal, Vice has positioned itself as a leader among the digital news outlets, at the same time when established news networks are experiencing viewer erosion amid a consumer shift to digital. The company has poured $50 million into its news division, which now has 34 bureaus worldwide and has been praised for in-depth coverage of international news.
LEADERSHIP: Shane Smith, CEO; Andrew Creighton, president, cofounder; Eddy Moretti, chief creative officer.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Boasting nine digital channels to go along with its flagship website, Vice’s breakout coincided with its debut on linear television, via its eponymous half-hour news show on HBO. Vice recently signed a new four-year programming pact that will further increase its presence on the pay cabler, including a daily, Vice-branded 30-minute newscast. Its digital channels, which include Vice News, run the gamut from music and technology to food and sports.
AD PROFILE: Vice counts Google, Levi’s and Intel among its list of clients, all of which have created branded content with Vice. The Creator’s Project, launched in partnership with Intel, promoting the works of artists across multiple disciplines who use technology, is now in its sixth year.
MARKET POSITION: Launched in January 2014, Whistle counts the NFL, PGA, MLB, Major League Lacrosse and NASCAR among its investors and content partners. The network currently has 14 million subscribers and nearly three billion views across its library of content. In January, Whistle raised $28 million in Series B financing from entities including Liberty Global and Sky Broadcasting.
LEADERSHIP: John West, founder and CEO; Jeff Urban, cofounder and president; Julie Kikla, head of content partnerships.
KEY PROGRAMMING: Whistle aggregates content from across YouTube in a way similar to entertainment companies such as Maker and Fullscreen. Last year, the MCN signed Los Angeles Lakers guard Jeremy Lin to its roster, the first among the big four pro sports leagues. The Whistle Sports library has more than 35,000 videos.
AD PROFILE: Whistle has partnered with major leagues, including the NFL, MLB and MLS, as well as a pair of lacrosse pro outfits. It has partnered with trick shot masters Dude Perfect and ultimate Frisbee player Brodie Smith to create videos centered around NASCAR and the World Cup.
MARKET POSITION: An ancient Web portal, Yahoo has tried a variety of strategies to remain relevant, including a recent push into Web video.
LEADERSHIP: Marissa Mayer, CEO; Scott Burke, senior VP, advertising technology; Lisa Utzschneider, senior VP, Americas sales; Prashant Fuloria, senior VP, advertising products.
KEY PROGRAMMING: New offerings include Sin City Saints, about a Vegas pro basketball team. All episodes premiered March 23. Other Space, an eight-episode series about misfit space adventurers who discover an alternate universe, was executive produced by Paul Feig (Freaks and Geeks, Bridesmaids). It launched April 14.
AD PROFILE: Last year, Yahoo bought BrightRoll, a big player in programmatic video advertising, for $640 million. The deal was expected to boost Yahoo’s position in the online video ad business. Honda is the presenting sponsor of Community, the onetime NBC sitcom that premiered on Yahoo Screen in March. The sponsorship includes integrations in episodes, pre-roll ads alongside new episodes and highlights and premium display and audience ads across Yahoo’s extended network.
—Tim Baysinger, Dade Hayes, Jon Lafayette and Luke McCord