The upfronts start earlier, are more crowded and increasingly include tag team presentations uniting linear and digital inventory – like WarnerMedia’s plans to step out arm-in-arm with ad-tech platform Xandr in May. At the Video Leadership Summit, a New York conference put on by the Video Advertising Bureau, Ken Ripley, VP of Sales for online news site Newsy, compared the 2020 upfront season to the TV landscape 30+ years ago.
“I think it is [like] 1987. In 1982, some people put some cable networks on the air and for five years did three things: created premium content; marketed themselves as a brand; and tried to drive their distribution. And in 1987, when homes were wired, [they started] to drive money to ad-supported cable,” he said.
“Streaming started in 2014 and this would be 1987 or ’88. It wasn’t a watershed event. They moved [ad sales] up 10% a year off a small base for the next 15 years. … So this not going to be a massive shift in the upfront but an incremental shift.”
“God help me if it takes 15 years,” said Andrea Clarke-Hall, VP of Business Development at Tubi. “It is like 1987, but it’s happening faster,” she said. New ad-supported streaming services like Peacock “are out there aggressively with upfronts and Newfronts, helping drive dollars to this market, helping establish this market.”
NBCUniversal’s Peacock TV launches in April for customers of parent company Comcast’s Xfinity cable service and in July for everyone else.
In its earnings Thursday afternoon, Roku predicted that by 2024 roughly half of all U.S. TV households will have cut the cord or never had traditional pay TV. The company described TV advertising “in the early stages of moving to streaming,”
Danielle Sporkin, U.S. Head of Integrated Planning at Omnicom subsidiary OMD, anticipates a trend “from demo to audience” at this year’s upfronts. “Yes, demo is still our currency but [the idea is] to better target the consumers that are within specific audience. And fluidity. The ability to move across linear and digital and making that more of a regular thing rather than, ‘We will put a small amount of digital on the side and we’ll see.’”
Ripley and others on both the content and the brand/agency side noted a scarcity of inventory in streaming likely to be exacerbated this summer and fall by election season. Ripley said about 32% of consumer viewing is streaming, and only about half of it has ads. Netflix and Disney+, for instance, are both subscription only.