Upfront Update: TWC's All-Screens Forecast; AWOL Backstory At AOL - Simon Applebaum

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More than a dozen online players made their case for increased advertising support during the second annual Digital Content NewFronts last week, under the Interactive Advertising Bureau's auspices. Here's what two of those players had to offer.

The Weather Company (The Weather Channel)

Venue : Times Center on W. 41st St., site of CMT's Sheryl Crow-headlining effort two month ago. White balloons lined the sides of this auditorium space, and that nice garden patio could be enjoyed behind the glass wall in back of the stage. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Presentation : The majority of Web ventures appearing at last year's NewFronts made two miscalculations in their efforts--go long (as in two hours or more, several with panel discussions without much relevance to the content being introduced) and showcase content without apremiere date attached. Result: ineffective events and bored or shortchanged crowds. Weather Company (a new Newfront entrant this year) avoided both hazards by keeping their effort less than an hour, and giving a launch date for every online series on display. Moreover, TWC stuck to one message. "We want to superserve the weather enthusiast," declared chief global revenue officer Curt Hecht, where programming gets equal, expanded treatment on-air, on the Web (social media included) and via smartphones or tablets. Great pace with both speeches and video clips. Grade: 5 Jacks

News : Six short-form series under the Weather Films banner premiere on a monthly basis, starting with Brinkin July. Each series will be simulcast online and on The Weather Channel, mobile and tablets. Brink will be followed by Destination Uncharted (August), Grid Breakers (September),I Am Unstoppable (October), Virus Hunters(November) and Alive(December).The series deal with remote habitats of the globe with unique nature or science aspects, and people overcoming physical misfortune or extreme weather incidents. Also, Home Depot will launch a Twitter campaign for its long-running "Project Of The Week" vignettes on The Weather Channel.Grade: 4 Jacks

Host : Several TWC executives rotated duty during the presentation. No one dropped their portion of the program.Grade : 4 Jacks

Overall Grade : 4.5 Jacks This is the template every NewFront player should follow if they want to strike a lightning bolt with advertisers for more buys.

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

AOL

Venue : A section of the Moynihan Building, a building that takes up two wide blocks across from Penn Station on 8th Ave. (between 31-33 Sts.). The biggest U.S. Post Office branch in New York City, AOL converted an area used for mail delivery and storage into two big rooms connected by a walkway with screens on both sides. One room was for the presentation, the other for pre and post-event dining and networking. With more than 2,000 RSVPs, the presentation room wasovercrowded to the point where people standing on the sides or in back were invited to A) return to the pre-show room and watch there or B) head across the street to a restaurant and watch on a live feed. (FYI: The food at the pre/post-show and the restaurant was outstanding and creatively presented, such as hanging lean Italian meet sandwiches.) Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Presentation : With "It's On!" as the theme, celebrities one by one had their turn to face the crowd and highlight their new AOL series (available simultaneously on smart TVs and online). Unfortunately, with a few exceptions (Sarah Jessica Parker and Anthony Anderson), the celebrities spent way too much time on their career backstories before saying anything about their series. What's more, every clip accompanying their remarks lasted only 30 seconds--and didn't give a premiere date. You wished an editor was around beforehand to see them and dice the backstory to shreds. An hour or 75 minutes at most was enough to give attendees the full picture (this show came in just short of two hours). AOL chief Tim Armstrong did well in his opening pitch, predicting that "in a few years, 90 percent of the Internet will be a video medium." His company is "out to bridge the gap between the TV world and the digital world." Grade: 3 Jacks

News : Fifteen series will premiere via AOL over the next year, all nonfiction or reality. Among the most compelling: City Ballet (Parker as co-executive producer), about life inside New York City Ballet; Inspiration Point, an excursion into creativity with designer Jonathan Adler; Hardwired, devoted to wearable technology; The Future Starts Here, going behind tech breakthroughs with Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain; Anderson's Anthony Eats America, visiting home chefs for their top meals, and Funded, which explores small business firms with successful crowd funding campaigns. No word of any scripted programs coming soon or in development. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Host : Armstrong and his AOL executive colleagues did OK. Grade: 3.5 Jacks

Overall Grade: 3.5 Jacks The message, programming and graphic design, good as they were, got derailed by all that celebrity backstory.

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

Special note : A year ago, the majority of NewFront participating companies gave out press access to their events generously. Quite the opposite last week. IAB requested journalists e-mail individual companies for credentials, and in large part, they failed to respond back. Others limited press access to a few. That's why you will not see reviews of presentations by Google/YouTube, Alloy Digital, Crackle, Zynga, Blip, Hulu, Univision, Conde Nast, etc. on this Web site. Separately, Microsoft Advertising and Yahoo's presentations last Monday conflicted with my Tomorrow Will Be Televised radio program, so I was unable to attend.

Next up: Vevo at the Newfront batter's box, and passing parade observations from Newfront-related events and TechCrunch Disrupt.

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

Simon Applebaum is producer/host of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the radio program all about TV. Tomorrow runs live Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time, noon Pacific Time onwww.blogtalkradio.com, with replays available atwww.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. A weekly TV series edition will soon premiere on the new UBC-TV network.

Have a question or reaction? E-mail it tosimonapple04@yahoo.com, or tweet @UBCSimonTWBT.

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