NewFronts Day Three: Snapchat, Twitter, Vice Media Group, BuzzFeed, Estrella and More

By Upfronts/NewFronts Archives
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Presentations from news and information content suppliers were in the spotlight Wednesday afternoon at the virtual Digital Content NewFronts. When the focus was not on players from social media-minded Twitter and Snapchat to Spanish-language entrant Estrella Media, it was on what the advertising business can do internally to take full, impactful advantage of opportunities in this content arena.

The Big Message: If you're going to divert a big chunk of your ad spending to digital and connected TV, news and information programs deserve a substantial, rather than token, share of that diverted budget. At the same time, advertisers and their agencies must up their due diligence to go after placement in programs or services with a reputation for quality, accurate journalism.

Host: Maria Menounos, who continues to demonstrate how well she works with both the NewFront agenda and her guest co-hosts (Cheddar News anchorperson Hena Doba this time around). Doba offered some on-target analysis of general TV and business trends.

What Worked: BBC News devoting all of its presentation time to an in-depth discussion of advertising industry issues, from workforce diversity and generating trust among consumers to client CEOs taking stands on social issues. Washington, D.C.-based anchorperson Katty Kay covered a lot of bases with her questioning of industry executives and OZY Media founder, chief executive and show host Carlos Watson. Nice move to include perspectives from six twentysomething consumers asked about what triggers their buying habits.

What Also Worked: A pair of unanticipated segments that will stand out on any list of 2021 NewFront highlights. During Snapchat's presentation, Will Smith brought a subject of his ongoing Will from Home feature, a Philadelphia resident who gives sneakers to local homeless people. After showing a video of the outreach, Smith announced a $100,000 donation in the subject's honor. The reaction was priceless. Later, audio content provider Audacy (formerly Entercom) launched its showcase with "Check the Vibrations," a performance by 2020 America's Got Talent winner Brandon Leake. An extended monologue on the power of sound, delivered with infectious energy by Leake in front of a simple black-and-white background.

What Didn't Work: Vice Media Group and BuzzFeed's respective presentations. Regrettably, while both efforts were visually stunning and well-paced and painted a solid panorama of general operations, they ended up as throwbacks to the early NewFront years when many presenting organizations withheld specifics on the content set to play in the season ahead, or in development.

Data Points: Snapchat's health, fitness and beauty vignettes picked up anywhere from 50 to 70 million viewers last year. Overall, Snapchat had more than 125 million active users this past March.

News:Snapchat will introduce a number of scripted short-form series in the months ahead, including Everything's Fine (a study of mental illness executive produced by Paul Feig),Breakwater (refugees from a landscape impacted by climate change on a survival quest) and The Me and You Show (sketch comedy with Snapchat users taking part).

With more states ending coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Vice Media Group will bring back and expand its live event presentations. 29 Rooms, where visitors encounter a variety of immersive experiences and performances (some with advertiser participation) will be staged later this year in New York City. In other cities, Vice will launch Noisy Residency, a multi-platform live music series, and All Black Everything, constructed around material from its Refinery 29 unit.

Vizio's smart TV set owners will get first dibs to see Estrella Games, a new Spanish-language channel devoted to game shows and other competition formats, organized by Estrella Media. As for the company's other full-time linear services -- Estrella TV and recently launched Estrella News -- both will launch soon on Pluto TV, now reaching more than 50 million consumers worldwide. Separately, Roku (which made its own NewFront presentation Monday afternoon) will launch an app of archived Estrella-made content on its platform.

Twitter will expand its relationship with NBCUniversal's news and information properties, launching special tweet content fromToday, CNBC and Telemundo's nightly Spanish-language newscast. Look for NBC Sports to establish a 2021 Summer Olympics Twitter feed, offering updates live from Tokyo. In other Twitter developments, Tastemade will introduce "Holiday Hotline" and "Food for Thought" content, while Refinery 29 contributes tweets produced by creators from its Unbothered and Somos-branded series (covering African American and Latino topics, respectively).

Parting Words: "Consumers are moving to digital platforms to consume news. News can help brands stay accountable to their consumers." -- Cheddar News anchorperson Hena Doba

"There's tremendous brand value in news and tremendous business value in news. There's an easy case to be made that doing good is good business." -- Lou Paskalis, Bank of America senior vice president

"It's going to be impossible for CEOs to sit on the sidelines." -- OZY Media founder-chief executive Carlos Watson

"Will Smith has some cool shows … but don't forget us journalists." -- John Battelle, organizer of The Recount and founder ofWired and The Industry Standard

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