NewFront News and Views: Defy, Collective and Whistle

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Cover image for  article: NewFront News and Views: Defy, Collective and Whistle

And now … our final Digital Content NewFronts 2015 report!

Defy Media

Venue: Diamond Horseshoe, the horseshoe-shaped nightclub below the Paramount Hotel on W. 46th St. The stairs to the club were way too dark and a few large signs were set up in such a way one could easily trip if not careful. The lighting didn't get better until about halfway into the club space. Nice finger-food served pre-presentation. Big presentation points: Operating in an environment of content democracy with series relevant to Millennials; 500 million-plus video views/month for programming largely developed in-house, often without advertiser commitments beforehand; embracing smart TVs/Rokus and other smart TV-making devices as a big distribution opportunity. Big news points: More than 30 new series ahead, spread among various Defy sites (Smosh,, etc.) including new sketch-com “Every (Blank) Ever” and “Mantervention” (men transform their looks/attitude). Also, “Smosh the Movie” debuts in theaters July 23. What worked: The “what we announce, we'll produce” initiative from Defy executives, good mix of pitches and video clips, showcase of “Prank It Forward” (the breakout short-form series where the pranks lead to inspirational outcomes). What didn't work: All that darkness en route to the space. Overall Grade: 3 Jacks

Collective Digital Studio

Venue: SVA Theater on W. 23rd St. near 8th Ave. Big presentation points: Making content in organic fashion, drawing 100 million viewers a month; company caters to both programming creators and brands. Big news points: Variety of new series ahead, including “Epic Meal Time” spinoff “Epic Tool Time,” “Fake Company Inc.” (pranks originating from a fake business), scripted “Maximum Ride,” based on the popular James Patterson novels, and “The Science of Fashion”; launching Prank Week, a global celebration of prank activity 24/7. What worked: "Gotta Share," a catchy musical spoof of social media usage from group Improv Everywhere. What didn't work: That scripted interview (covered in an earlier column) involving three of Collective's fashion/lifestyle hosts and a Harper's Bazaar editor. If you didn't glance at the teleprompter in the back, you'd assume this interview was off the cuff from start to finish -- which was NOT the case. (That’s our nominee for biggest 2015 Upfront/NewFront blunder.) Overall Grade: 3 Jacks

Whistle Sports

Venue: Hard Rock Cafe near Times Square, all dressed up with sports memorabilia and a hearty breakfast buffet. Big presentation points: Different lean-in sports experience for target Millennial audience -- short, snappy focus on the personalities and environment they play in, rather than play-by-play coverage; 70 percent of viewing is on mobile devices. "Social media is where (our audience) goes first, then the PC and TV," declared chief executive John West. Big news points: At least seven new series over the next year, including “World Tour with Bodie Smith,” “Challenge Accepted” and “Next Trick Shot Superstar.” And yes, there's a good-hearted prank effort in play here, too: “Most Valuable Prank.” What worked: Overall pacing of the presentation, moving seamlessly from speaker to videos and branded content involving Gilette and Wal-Mart; marching band and dancers opening the event to "Get Ready,” a big finish using video highlights of fan event at Hard Rock the night before set to "How Do You Like Me Now?" (Kudos to the production crew for a quick overnight turnaround on that one.) What didn't work: There was no on-screen identification of Whistle executives and speakers. Overall Grade: 4 Jacks

A quick reminder of our Jacks ratings:

5 Jacks--Excellent
4 Jacks--Very Good
3 Jacks--Good
2 Jacks--Fair
1 Jack---Poor
0 Jacks-Worse than that

Several final thoughts on Digital Content NewFronts 2015:

More than a third of the presenting companies did not respond to most press requests for RSVPs, including those from MediaBizBloggers. The unresponsive bunch: The New York Times, Yahoo, Refinery29, Time Inc., Lin Digital/Media General, News Corp., Time Warner Cable, Fullscreen, Discovery Digital Media, StyleHaul, Beatport,, Endemol Beyond, and Elite Daily. Also, many companies that staged their own NewFronts independently of the Interactive Advertising Bureau's oversight didn't let the press know what they were up to until after the fact in press releases; those error-makers included Vox Media and Bunim-Murray. Result: Little or zero coverage of their showcases. It’s called Publicity 101, folks. Enroll now!

Another small group of presenting companies made the call to flat-out bar press from their events or restrict attendance to a few. Sony PlayStation, HealtiNation and Bloomberg Media fall into that category. Why? In particular, why did Sony PlayStation hide out, especially given A) the success of “Powers,” Sony's first scripted series for PlayStation and smart TV sets and B) Sony division Crackle did its own highly effective event a few weeks earlier, open for all press to witness.

Bottom line: It’s time for the IAB to do what Advertising Week, CE Week, NYC Television Week and other NY-based theme weeks do: Distribute an overall press pass to everyone covering the NewFronts. If some presenter objects, they tell IAB and IAB issues an alert (which is what they did in Sony PlayStation's case, and didn't in the case of their own NewFront lunch). No more asking journalists to e-mail dozens of companies to get in and risk ending up in their spam pits. Make it happen, IAB.

The Sorry State of Internet Week New York

For the fourth straight year, Internet Week New York (going on through Saturday at Metropolitan Pavilion and many other venues throughout the five boroughs) is rejecting coverage requests from the majority of journalists who want to be there. PKPR, IW's public relations agency, continues to provide a disservice to its client, the organizations supplying events throughout IW, and ultimately the public, who would benefit from knowing what happens here. Moreover, any IW sponsor influencing or endorsing PKPR's mass rejection of coverage from respected journalists, whether they cover TV, media, the Internet or technology, also does a disservice. That is why, once again, you will not see coverage of Internet Week here. What an extreme shame.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Media Village management or associated bloggers.



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