Upfront Update: VEVO's Grand Newfront Slam

By TV / Video Download Archives
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Venue : Roseland Ballroom, coming into big play as a favorite upfront or post-front party scene this year. After nice turns here by Fox Sports 1, IFC and MTV, Vevo had urban Latin/funk band Spam All-Stars entertain the guests, while screens on both sides of the stage presented impressive factoids. Two to chew on: Viewers watch 113 minutes a month on smart TVs, and over half of all Vevo viewing each month is now on mobile or smart TVs. Good munchies helped the atmosphere. Grade: 5 Jacks

 Presentation : No replay of the near-end panel that zapped the life out of last year's showcase. Instead, in one of the gutsiest moves so far this season, Vevo bookended their affair with opening/closing performances by Poetry Slam champion Sekou Andrews. His presence, musical imagery, language and self-expression was extraordinary, holding the audience on every word. Made me remember Spoken, the wonderful TV showcase for intimate poetry stand-up on the late Black Family Channel. In between, Vevo showed its penchant for momentum-building content was no fluke, deftly mixing executive comments, program and viewer feedback clips, and live performances by Carly Rae Jepsen (yes, she did two minutes worth of "Call Me Maybe"), Jessie Ware (watch out for her) and rapper Kendrick Lamar.Grade: 5 Jacks

News : Univision has a deal to co-develop a number of series that will play on that network and Vevo in Spanish. Beyond that, no developments on upcoming series premieres, or cable/satellite carriage of Vevo TV, the venture's new 24-hour music video network. Grade: 2 Jacks

Host : Rio Caraeff, the company's chief executive, lets his charming side out when in front of an audience. "We're thrilled to share our passion of music with all of you," he said off the bat. "In the future, music may be an addressable and personalized medium." An interactive one as well, he added. Grade: 4.5 Jacks

Overall Grade: 4.5 Jacks Comeback of the year among the NewFronts and one of the year's best efforts, upfront or Newfront. Only the lack of series premiere news (due to timing/at least two series launched late April) got in the way of a perfect grade.

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

Observations from the passing parade, mostly off other events in NY last week:

*Just like NY Tech Day the week before, TechCrunch Disrupt at Manhattan Center featured a wonderful array of new Web sites and mobile apps from local entrepreneurs. Many of them could easily--and should easily--become smart TV apps. Bet if they did, the public would use them regularly.

*Most telling TechCrunch Disrupt comment on stage came from eBay chief executive John Donahoe last Tuesday. "We see a world where people will shop and use retail on multiple screens (TV included). That's an area we're investing in," he said. In fact, eBay's PayPal unit just launched an app on LG's smart TV sets last month. Donahue's statement cried out for a follow-up question from the conductor of this fireside chat--and didn't get it. Later, PayPal's recent move didn't come up in a panel featuring one of their top executives. Unbelievable.

*The assortment of people TechCrunch Disrupt had on its stage for one-on-one interviews and panels was terrific. Incredible that with one exception I witnessed (Union Square Ventures senior executive Fred Wilson), none got the opportunity to answer audience questions. TechCrunch's team of editors and writers get a no pass on this. For that matter, another no pass goes their way for not one word of discussion on smart TVs or the growing crowd funding movement.

*Google went two-for-two in blowing opportunities in NY to advance YouTube and Google TV. At TechCrunch, where Google TV could have made a deep impression (and introduced its first transactional service with online consumer electronics retailer Newegg), a ho-hum new Google Plus feature got a star turn last Tuesday. A day later, YouTube did its splashy NewFront presentation, and judging from coverage by the few reporters able to get in, there was no new programming meat accompanying the splash. Hard to comprehend there was nothing new YouTube could unveil. Repeat, nothing.

*Another notable quote, this one from Newsweek Daily Beast Co. founder Tina Brown at Digital's annual NewFront gathering last Thursday: "There's a reason why binge-viewing is happening. People want to escape into something more (immersive)." Runner-up notable quote there comes from Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington: "Now we are all publishers. We're moving from the information era to the participation era in media, where self-expression is the new entertainment, and you have to be live and part of the global conversation. The only thing that matters is quality."

*Keep your eye on what transpires from a NY meet-up this week staged by Verizon and MIT Enterprise Forum. The purpose: invite application developers to channel their creations for smart TVs as well as the Web and mobile. Which reminds me to ask Google: where and when are you going to do another Google TV hackathon, more than a year after you staged two successful events in Silicon Valley and London (200 developers each)?

Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!

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