The Upfront/Digital Content NewFront event season is now in the rear-view mirror. It was a swift 2 ½ months of covering presentations all around Manhattan and learning what's ahead for many broadcast, cable and multicast-delivered networks, and the increasing number of digital services, increasingly available via smart TV sets and devices giving sets smart functionality (Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast and so forth). We saw performances up close and sometimes personal. (I became the punchline in comedian Wanda Sykes’ routine at the BET Upfront). For the first time, we picked up data insights and unique initiatives worth keeping in mind when Upfront/NewFront spending decisions are reached among sponsors and media buyers. What were the most memorable sights, sounds, news breaks and, yes, cuisine offerings throughout it all? Here’s the scoop.
(Note: Ed Martin has already weighed in on the Upfront presentations by CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and The CW.)
Best Venue – Skylight Clarkson North
The AMC Networks Upfront and the Turner NewFront were both staged here. Sensational, inventive usage of the same open space by different organizations. In AMC's case, an elegant dining room framed on three sides by the largest video-walls we saw all season. Turner turned that interior into a mini-museum with well-designed, informative or playful exhibits.
The phrase “excellent versatility” applies to both. They were well-staged and -paced efforts that packed plenty into 90 and 60 minutes, respectively. Turner had the comedy highlight of this Upfront with an unforgettable conversation among Conan O'Brien, Anderson Cooper and Shaquille O'Neal. YouTube always comes up with surprising moments and this year, unlike previous years, broke news.
Runner up: A+E Networks' executives offered a rare public display of themselves in "biography" fashion. For several, this was an unexpectedly moving exercise.
Second runner up: BET's executives were smart, sharp and full of news, seemingly unfazed by the sudden departure of Stephen Hill, the network's long-time chief programming executive.
Best News Content -- Hulu
Hulu's range of announcements from new series to interactive advertising/commerce over the TV set rollout made it the most newsworthy presentation. Every new program description or sizzle reel gave off positive vibes. If Hulu’s plan to offer movie ticket ordering comes off this fall, this may be the biggest advance in the long-discussed advancement of commerce through TV.
One of the most versatile men in show business gave strikingly different but consistently amusing performances at YouTube (a Broadway-style splashy music and dance number), Turner (a drop the mic rap satire) and CBS (where he appeared as a Vulcan on stage at Carnegie Hall).
Runner up: BET's Media Sales President Louis Carr, who had the entire audience on Twitter promoting the show
Second runner up: AMC Networks' family of senior executives, each of them more personable than most, all of them happy to hang out after the show and chat with everyone. (Special props to IFC President Jennifer Caserta, who never had a moment to eat all night, for sharing her after-party pizza out by her car with my colleagues Ed Martin and Ainsley Andrade.)
Best Star Presence – YouTube
From James Corden to Kevin Hart to Katy Perry, the starshine was blinding at YouTube's presentation.
Best Cuisine – National Geographic
The buffet at National Geographic’s event offered a mouthwatering selection of tasty treats and more than enough to go around. Not a bad bite on the table.
Best Data Insight -- BET
BET took a deep dive into the strategy behind and importance of the African-American TV series it has in development and the growing importance of Black Twitter.
Runner up: Scripps Networks -- Attitude and neuroscience research collide for the first time to show how individual TV program categories impact ad effectivenes.
Second runner up: Nickelodeon --Guests always leave Nick events with a wide variety of conclusions over how their target audience behaves.
Best Innovative Opportunity – BET
BET captivated the room with details of its Twitter habit study. For many advertisers, this can be their ground floor entry into their first-ever spending directed at this community of color.
Runner up: Scripps Networks' AI device engagement (Alexa/Google Home/Siri)
Second runner up: Hulu’s interactive advertising/commerce over the TV set initiative
Honorable mention: Complex Networks’ brand partnerships
That's all for this year, folks!
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