This week, major web video companies borrowed a tradition from the television world for the second annual NewFronts. The New York-based events brought together executives, advertisers and celebrities to preview shows, make announcements and celebrate 2013’s potential — here’s a round-up of just some of what was presented.
Yahoo (s YHOO)
Celebrity Presence: John Stamos, Ed Helms, Morgan Spurlock, Cheryl Hines, Rachael Harris, The Lumineers (who performed live).
New Shows Presented: A mix of comedy and lifestyle programming, including Helms’s Tiny Commando, a show about the intersection of food and film, and a Spurlock-produced series where celebrities tell Stamos about the first time they had sex.
Biggest News Announced: For wrestling fans, it was probably the announcement that Yahoo and the WWE will be “tag-teaming” video distribution. But Yahoo also announced plans to partner with Condé Nast and CNBC for shows.
Money Quote: From Sam Gutelle at Tubefilter’s coverage, based off a comment by Yahoo COO Henrique de Castro:
De Castro asked advertisers to sink 5% of their TV budget of just one brand into Yahoo. Clearly, he understands that while the online video space is growing in popularity, it is still an area meant to complement TV, not overtake it. Yahoo’s new shows should do just that by providing solid, accessible entertainment.
My Take: None of the announced partnerships are as high-profile as Yahoo getting the exclusive rights to Saturday Night Live clips. That said, of all the new shows announced this week, I might be the most intrigued by Losing Your Virginity with John Stamos: It sounds like a lot of fun.
AOL (s AOL)
Celebrity Presence: Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Richie, Baratunde Thurston, iJustine.
New Shows Presented: A wide range of largely lifestyle-oriented programming, including the Gwyneth Paltrow-starring Second Chances, Hank Azaria’s Fatherhood, Webby co-founder Tiffany Shlain’s The Future Starts Here, and a show about ballet executive-produced by Parker.
Biggest News Announced: To track who’s actually watching all that programming, AOL will be collaborating with Nielsen on a system that will “express audience measurement in the language of TV, enabling comparisons between the audience of AOL’s high-quality original programming and curated premium partner content to TV viewership” (according to the press release).
Money Quote: From Video Ink’s coverage of the Nielsen deal, an interview with Nielsen SVP of Strategic Partnerships John Burbank:
Ultimately, it’s not up to the Comscores and Nielsens of the world. “It’s really the market that has to decide, and we’re doing our best to make the measurement as robust and as fair for everybody so the buyer and the seller have to agree to transact on the data,” Burbank added.
My Take: Some of AOL’s original programming sounds potentially interesting, but relying on celebrities and brands to drive web content is far from a fresh business model, and oftentimes doesn’t have much staying power. However, if the audience for that content finally gets properly measured, it could help advertisers better understand the potential impact of online video.
Celebrity Presence: SNL‘s Seth Meyers (who hosted the event), Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, professional wrestlers Sergeant Slaughter and Rey Mysterio.
New Shows Presented: Two new exclusives include Quick Draw, a comedy western, and high school drama East Los Angeles. Plenty of other series are on their way, and Hulu made note of One Life to Live and All My Children, which have performed well in their new digital iteration.
Biggest News Announced: Hulu had some exciting numbers to report, most importantly that Hulu Plus has topped four million subscribers, and according to comScore, it’s number one in engagement among top ad-supported sites.
Money Quote: From Variety’s coverage, a snippet from Meyers:
“‘You might be wondering why someone who works for a traditional network like NBC is at the Hulu upfront,’ he said. ‘Simply put, I’m hedging my bets. I don’t want to be working for the steam-engine company and wondering if cars are going to work.'”
My Take: It would have been interesting to see bigger-name content presented by Hulu this week, but with subscribers on the rise and the site bringing in more original series, things seem to be going well for the site.
Celebrity Presence: Rob Huebel (who hosted the event), Grace Helbig, Rooster Teeth’s Burnie Burns.
New Shows Presented: The Huebel-starring comedy Mainly Murder, unscripted competition series Jewelry Star, The Great S. Cape!, created by Dark Knight producer Michael Uslan. (Full details presented on Blip’s site.)
Biggest News Announced: Not only has Blip already announced a partnership with My Damn Channel to distribute original content, but on Wednesday they announced a production deal with hugely popular (and outspoken) YouTuber Ray William Johnson.
Money Quote: From AdWeek’s coverage of the event:
“‘Blip is the future of TV,’ said CEO Kelly Day. ‘We have the largest library of Web originals anywhere. And we are not a platform.'”
My Take: Blip is currently in the midst of a massive sea change — so it was inevitable that this week’s news is a bit underwhelming in comparison to earlier shakeups. However, it’ll be exciting to see how the talent Blip’s brought in meshes together.
Crackle (s SNE)
Celebrity Presence: Jerry Seinfeld, David Arquette, Missi Pyle.
New Shows Presented: Plenty of them, including Extraction, a feature-length thriller starring Danny Glover and Vinnie Jones, Cleaners, an assassin action series with a cast including Arquette and Gina Gershon, and Strand Street, directed and produced by Milo Ventimiglia.
Biggest News Announced: As previously announced, there will be a second season of Jerry Seinfeld’s extremely successful Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, but more importantly the landmark 2010 web series The Bannen Way will return in 2013 for six new half-hour episodes.
Money Quote: From the Hollywood Reporter’s coverage:
“Crackle is for the new living room,” Eric Berger, executive vice president of digital networks at Sony Pictures Television and GM of Crackle. “It’s programmed, it’s everywhere and its easily accessible. We’re not a content aggregator but a programmer much like a cable network.”
My Take: Anecdotal evidence suggests that Comedians In Cars has been huge for Crackle, introducing a whole new audience to the service, and the emphasis on thriller and drama programming is a positive step forward for those looking to see web original content mature.
But there’s this line from the press release: “The long-awaited sequel to the cult favorite David Spade comedy Joe Dirt will break new ground as the first made for digital movie that is a sequel to a hit motion picture.” We might be looking at two steps forward, one step back.