Two weeks ago I had my first experience with the Upfronts, and I was eager to see what media companies would do to appeal to the unique content consumption habits of my generation. If you're anything like me, you might enjoy listening to Spotify on your TV or watching live sports from your computer. This type of cross-platform multimedia experience -- already popular among Generation Z consumers -- is becoming more popular with consumers of all demographics. My goal in attending Upfront Week was to not only be on the ground, listening to what major networks have planned next, but also to observe what young media buyers, planners and managers think about the progression of the industry. Based on my experience, I'm excited to report that networks might finally be listening to the demands of Generation Z.
A brand representative from Conde Nast said, "Young people are consuming media a lot more around the clock through mobile devices and more nontraditional services," and it seems like networks are building solutions for this. We were never accustomed to the lack of inclusion and engagement that Baby Boomers and Generations X and Y had to experience with content mediums, such as linear TV and broadcast radio. Therefore, we intrinsically value content experiences that we can immerse ourselves into and have the opportunity to control our own scheduling and programming narratives. It is very clear that networks are following this trend, as companies such as WarnerMedia and Disney are planning to release their own digital streaming services within the next year. Along with these streaming offerings, it appears that interactive television is taking a leap of faith in 2019.
At the WarnerMedia Upfront, Conan O'Brien described the experience of top media executives showcasing their networks' new service offerings and series packaging as "the Oscars for PowerPoint" and I would definitely have to agree. As a Generation Z expert, however, I was looking for these networks' service offerings and series packages that were most relevant towards our consumer group. We grew up during a time when new personal device technologies were released every year, and we had the option of choosing to occupy our time on our computers, phones, iPods, Game Boys and CD players all in one sitting.
WarnerMedia announced two new shows, The Jenna Lyons Project and Chasing the Cure, centered around empowering viewers to take action during their episodes. On Chasing the Cure, Ann Curry hosts a scalable TV show that includes crowdsourcing ideas for the purpose of harnessing social networks to create a community of care. The show's tagline is "Participate, watch and maybe he'll save a life," knowing the audience is empowered to connect problems to solutions in ways that were never before possible. The Jenna Lyons Project will also be a "truly connected style experience," as Lyons stated in a promo video. In the show, viewers will be able to watch her work on beauty, fashion and home design shoots, then engage with what they saw directly through an online shopping platform and daily social media content.
When I asked young media people what they thought about this type of new experience, Woodrow Claybon from Colgate said, "I think I have a deeper understanding of how they want to appeal to people who want to advertise on their slots or TV shows." Shows like these create a platform for both advertisers and consumers to seamlessly interact and engage with each other.
It's safe to say that junior media executives are excited that the focus towards young consumer behavior is finally entering the forefront of Upfront Week. There is still speculation about whether every single network developing its own independent streaming service is a strategy of innovation or a careless move out of fear of being left behind, but either way it creates more space for on-demand content and inclusive viewing experiences that were previously inaccessible. The main takeaway from spending Upfront Week with Millennial and Gen Z media executives is that in order for networks to stay ahead, they need to be democratizing content and delivering high performing results that are real.
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