NewFronts 2016: Closing Odds and Ends

By Tomorrow Will Be Televised Archives
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Digital Content NewFront season 2016 is a wrap, so here are some final observations on what transpired the last two weeks.

The wave of announcements by participating companies for new virtual reality series or studios became so tidal, you expected every NewFront participating company to include something VR at their presentation. For Awesomeness TV and several other companies down the stretch last week, it became a public badge of honor to be a non-VR showcase -- and proudly say so.

My vote for Best New Presentation Site this year goes to the Altman Building on W. 18th St., halfway between Avenue of the Americas and 7th Ave. This modest Chelsea space was used to great advantage by Popsugar the first week and Whistle Sports last Wednesday.

My vote for Best Presentation Site that NewFronts and Upfronts should use more often: The Morgan Library & Museum on Madison Avenue near E. 36th St. A classy, eye-pleasing venue with a great cocktail reception lobby on the main floor and comfy auditorium downstairs. It's been home to National Geographic's NewFront breakfast the last two years and the atmosphere matches their ambition. Delivered some good mango/passion fruit juice this go-round. Be a good place for a channel or service entering the Upfront/NewFront scene to impress. What say you, WGN America, Bounce TV or Fusion?

One more National Geographic note: Keep new digital series hosts Bertie Gregory ("Wild_Life") and Angeli Gabriel ("NGenius") on your radar screen. Have a strong hunch they will gravitate in time to National Geographic Channel series. They are fun to watch on-camera and in person.

Several NewFront participants, including Maker Studios, Machinima and Conde Nast, dramatically downsized their venues to the point where journalists were not allowed in. Result: Several of the most important announcements during the last two weeks, such as Conde Nast's trio of incubator ventures grooming new projects by women and people of color, didn't get the national notice they should have.

Also, at least half of the participating NewFront companies didn't have the courtesy to return e-mail requests among a substantial number of journalists -- yours truly included--to attend and cover. Among them: Awesomeness TV, Bloomberg, CNN, Fullscreen, Hearst, Mashable, New York Times, Time Inc. and Vice. This is the second straight year of this non-communication baloney. Time for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which organizes NewFronts, to do what Advertising Week and other New York-based theme weeks do as standard policy: Issue all-access passes to all journalists. If a participating company doesn't want press, as Yahoo openly noted, just make the request. Period.

Now for a few notes about this week:

Congratulations to ABC for giving "American Crime" a third season. The best series now on broadcast TV deserved it, after a brilliant second season executed by creator/executive producer/director John Ridley and his associates. Look for plenty of Emmy nominations in the Limited Series categories this summer and (fingers-crossed) the Peabody Award next spring.

Internet Week New York is underway, and it looks sadly like this theme week is in big trouble. Less than 50 events will take place, a huge drop from the 200-250 events of recent years, and long-time home base Metropolitan Pavilion is out of the picture. As of this past weekend, looking at IW's website, not one press release had been issued about this week's agenda and the press credentials page still contains a 2015 form. As we've noted in this column, IW has rejected most credential requests from major news organizations since 2013 and then invited them to pay for attendance. That's led to an absence of coverage by local and national print, TV and technology-focused Internet outlets, as IW offered more events focused on Web players exploring TV and the emergence of smart TV sets and devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. What a huge shame it will be if this royal fiasco of PR judgement leads to IW's downfall. This is a great annual crowdsourced project.

In sad Upfront week news, there will not be a press lunch Wednesday after the Turner Upfront! It had become a grand tradition that allowed the press to spend time with show creators and executives from TBS and TNT, and it will be deeply missed. While many who enjoyed this annual ritual trust this is a one-time call, give props to Turner for introducing a pre-presentation red carpet that will include talent from truTV and other Turner channels. Better than nothing.

Also getting the hook Wednesday: MundoMax's upfront lunch, the first event of this nature since Fox exited ownership of the Spanish-language network last year.  I'm told a public showcase of MundoMax's 2016-17 season content and advertising plans may happen in New York this summer. Meantime, the network will go forward with agency-by-agency meetings.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

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