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Inaugural Online Video NewFront Season Begins

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On Thursday, April 19, a major development in online video -- the first digital content newfront season -- began. This two-week season kicked off with Hulu's showcase, and will consist of 19 events in New York City where online video creators announce planned shows to marketing executives and advertisers. They'll be looking for early advertising commitments, as well as partners for branded series.

As online video attempts to siphon ad dollars from television advertising, the newfronts are an important milestone. This is the industry announcing to advertisers that the time is right, that premium online video has the content, stars, and reach to fit in with their national advertising campaigns.

The season is an evolution from the annual Digitas NewFront Conference, first held in 2008. This year, Digitas announced it was partnering with Hulu, Google, AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo to create a two week season of showcases. Soon after, 13 other companies, including PopSugar, DBG, Vevo, Alloy Digital, Disney Interactive, IAB, and NBCUniversal announced they would also take part.

"The DCNF [digital content newfront] is about quality content at scale and original online video and programming. Consumers want quality content. Brands want quality content. And agencies want to connect brands with consumers within quality content. The DCNF creates a standard for this digital marketplace as it rises in prominence and helps better connect brands with consumers," says Jordan Bitterman, senior vice president at Digitas.

The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) will host an event where it showcases upcoming content from humor sites Funny or Die, The Onion, and The Daily. Comedy attracts a younger viewer, notes Seneca Mudd, director of industry initiatives at IAB, so hosting a newfront seemed like a good opportunity to drive ad buying.

"We thought it made a lot of sense for us to participate this year. Digital video is increasing in its market share and demand. We're finding that agencies and marketers are largely providing original advertising for video," says Mudd.

While content creators are confident of the reach and targeting ability of online video, there's a feeling that marketers and advertisers aren't yet on board. To help that along, the newfronts will also play an educational role.

"We hope to provide a platform for our members to provide a slate to the advertising community, to take advantage of the event that this fortnight is creating, and to bring more marketers an understanding of digital video," adds Mudd.

That education won't be completed in two weeks, explains Ran Harnevo, senior vice president of AOL Video.

"I think it's the beginning of, I would say, a two to four year education process. The phrase 'online video' is not going to go away very soon. What is online video?" asks Harnevo. "We have content on TVs already, just not on the subscription of Time-Warner. We have apps, we have almost every connected TV device, and we have scale already on the big screen. We are very successful on mobile: iPads, Androids, iOS.

"I think the essence of NewFront is, one, to start educating marketers that the difference between traditional TV and the online video industry is getting vaguer and vaguer. Number two, we need to prove a point that some inventory is worth buying in advance," says Harnevo.

View the full slate of newfronts online. This site will bring detailed coverage of the Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Digitas, IAB, and Google events as they take place.

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