The Digital Content NewFronts: Good for Business and Here to Stay -- Michael Kassan

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We might not yet be at a point where, like clockwork every spring, CBS’ Les Moonves makes a prediction about massive double-digit rate increases. But industry rituals aside, one thing is certain: the Digital Content NewFronts that kick off this week is here to stay.

In its second year under the management of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the DCNF is bigger than ever, expanding from a week to nine days to accommodate new participants. It’s telling and, I think, heartening to note that the newcomers include a mix of legacy print stalwarts evolving into media companies such as the New York Times, Conde Nast and Time Inc.; some of the most exciting companies in digital video, such as Maker, VICE, PopSugar and VEVO; as well as major players Time Warner Cable and Comcast. (All of the former also happen to be MediaLink partners.)

They join such players as Buzzfeed, Sony Pictures Television’s Crackle, and others. Anchoring the roster of almost two dozen content sellers are the six DCNF founding partners: AOL, DigitasLBi, Google/YouTube, Hulu, Microsoft and Yahoo.

That is an eclectic and exciting recipe for new ideas and emerging opportunities, and I have no doubt that the agencies and brands will take advantage. The event has evolved into more than a showcase, it is now a marketplace.

JR McCabe, SVP of video for Time Inc., told Digiday last week that, “If people come out of this saying, ‘I’ll think of Time Inc. next time I think about video buys,’ that’ll be a huge plus for us.” The DCNF provides a critical forum that positions its participants as media companies (rather than simply MCN’s or print companies or portals).

In fact, this year even Time Warner Cable and Comcast got involved. What was their message? Innovation is taking place within every part of the video value chain. Comcast celebrated the tenth anniversary of their Spotlight product and laid out a roadmap for the next 10 years, which as you can imagine was as much about the consumer as it was about streamlined ad buying.

Perhaps the NewFronts were mostly a spectacle in 2008, when Digitas recognized the need for a digital version of the upfronts, but that’s eons ago in digital years. Online content is now a core element in any marketing campaign of consequence.

I’ve been struck by how much of the conversation at our MediaLink DCNF kick-off breakfast, which brings everyone together on the first day, is about business potential and marketing opportunities rather than buzz about the latest YouTube “star.” High on the agenda is where and how mobile and social fit into the online video picture, and what that means for marketers. Nielsen just reported that for the first time, most Americans in every age group have smartphones rather than a less-functional handheld device.

These by-invitation presentations are serious business and will continue to grow in size and importance as we proceed deeper into the digital age. And clearly, considerable effort has gone into making that so. Having an agency as a founding partner, for one thing, has ensured that the DCNF would be built not for show but on a pragmatic foundation.

Moreover, among the participants in the 2014 DCNF are entertainment executives with considerable experience and great track records in running an upfront, including Nancy Tellem and Jordan Levin at Xbox and Dawn Ostroff at Conde Nast Entertainment.

So there’s plenty to talk about, plenty of room for continued growth and no shortage of business to be done.

Michael E. Kassan is Chairman and CEO of MediaLink, LLC, a leading Los Angeles and New YorkMichael KassanCity-based advisory and business development firm that provides critical counsel and direction on issues of marketing, advertising, media, entertainment and digital technology. Michael can be reached at

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