In the annals of full-tilt ad pitches that have left buyers razzled and dazzled, Amazon’s NewFront presentation tonight may not merit an especially lengthy or detailed chapter.
Most of the announcements during the 90-minute event had been posted to Deadline and other outlets before the crowd of several hundred filed into David H. Koch Theater in New York’s Lincoln Center. The big draw for advertisers – weekly NFL games nabbed as an 11-year exclusive as part of the league’s sweeping media rights deals – has been known to the audience for more than a year.
And yet, as a demonstration of sheer force, the methodical tour through businesses like Prime Video’s sports push, livestream mainstay Twitch and the just-rebranded Freevee put Amazon even more fully on the media map. In streaming, the last few weeks have shown that any serious contender will need to have a well-developed ad business, and Amazon fits that bill. And it’s a lucrative market. Once an also-ran next to the digital duopoly of Facebook and Google, Amazon generated $31.2 billion in ad revenue in 2021, and a large and growing chunk of that is in video.
Last year, when the upfronts and NewFronts were still conducted virtually due to Covid, Amazon put on its first edition. This year’s in-person debut took full advantage of the posh setting, opening with a ballerina dancing in front of a massive video screen, before the Blue Angels Drum Line boomed out an opening fusillade.
Thankfully, the night’s host was Amy Poehler. The comedian who has become an active producer and director (with two projects at Amazon, one in each role) delivered a welcome dose of insouciance during an otherwise straight-laced evening.
After yet another sizzle reel finished playing, Poehler strode to the center of the stage, snarking as she went, “That video was super-fun, and I’m really glad I saw it. But I want to know more!” Of Amazon’s fast-growing livestream platform, she declared, “Twitch: The best place to watch people watch people watch people play videogames!”
There were segments about new ad tactics (e.g., virtual product placement inserting brands into shots in post) and a half-dozen creative teams from new and returning shows. One portion of the show seemed deliberately engineered not to yield any new news: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was queried by Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit, who will team in the tech giant’s Thursday night booth. “Amazon Prime is going to change the way people watch football,” Goodell intoned, without much elaboration. Given the league’s prior experiments with Yahoo and Twitter as well as Amazon’s “tri-casts” with the NFL Network and broadcast partners, Goodell noted, “This deal’s probably seven years in the making.”
Herbstreit then asked, “Where do you see all this going in the next five to 10 years?” (Given that the Thursday night arrangement runs through 2033, seems hard to imagine dramatic changes ripped from a sci-fi novel.)
Soon, Poehler was back onstage, mocking the slow-moving panels that opened and closed on talent, including the football trio. She also may have been on to something when she adopted a serious tone during her opening monologue. “Tonight, at midnight, Amazon is going back to just selling books,” she said, before conceding it was just a gag.
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