Can Digital Escape Its Demons at Upfronts?


In a television upfront season that’s planned to be less flamboyant and expected to be less lucrative than in years past, digital will play a bigger role than ever. That’s simply because more people are watching TV online legitimately than ever before. But, as per usual, it won’t be easy to pin the monetization tail on this donkey.

Networks are said to be including online as just another integrated part of their ad inventory package at their annual open house in New York this week, emphasizing the delivery method to varying degrees. They are getting smarter about new online ad formats (which were recently certified by the IAB), and getting better at estimating how many people will watch on the web.

Still, “next year” has become the refrain for when digital will finally matter at upfronts. Could it finally be this year? A host of new and old obstacles stand in the way:

– The increasing popularity of time-shifting methods like online streaming may actually take make television advertising altogether less appealing, because they take the prime-time immediacy out of the punch for advertisers. (New York Times)

– Tighter budgets mean less risk taking. (Variety)

– Some networks don’t know how to handle their early success. In a step backwards, the CW discontinued ad-supported streaming episodes of one of its most popular shows, Gossip Girl. And the network is reading the tea leaves to say this has been a positive move. (TVWeek)

– The people who make the calls on media buys aren’t the same young demographic that watch their TV online. (Silicon Alley Insider)

– Original web content seems likely to be forgotten in the shuffle again.

Still, we’d be surprised if digital didn’t make more than incremental improvements on its place in the media buying world. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on New York this week. If you’re there, please drop us a line and let us know the mood.


Daisy Whitney

Great roundup, Liz. Thanks for the inclusion of the TVWeek story. It will be really interesting to see how this year’s upfront plays out…an exciting week!

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