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Vudu Is In, ESPN Is Out: Examining the 2019 NewFront Lineup

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The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released the preliminary lineup for the 2019 NewFront Week in New York City, and the changes from last year's schedule offer clues about who's succeeding with online video advertising and who wants in on the action.

The change that got the most attention was the addition of Vudu, the on-demand streaming service owned by Walmart. News broke in October that the company has partnered with MGM to create original series based on MGM franchises. Those series will be available for free ad-supported viewing starting in the first quarter of this year. At the Vudu NewFront, the ad community will certainly get a first look at those series.  

Other changes to this year's schedule include Verizon Media taking Oath's spot (now that Verizon Media Group has taken the place of the Oath brand) and Ellen Digital joining the lineup. Ellen Digital previously hosted its own event outside the IAB's official schedule, which caused a scheduling problem for some media buyers.

At a time when sports video is on the rise, it's a surprise that ESPN isn't hosting a newfront this year. Without ESPN or Bleacher Report, the lineup is sports free. Another no-show is Group Nine Media, which announced earlier this month it will instead host a series of regional presentations, which it's calling Nine-Fronts. The first stops will be New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, and Boston, although it hasn't yet announced dates.

The IAB held its first West Coast NewFront in Los Angeles in October. Streaming Media asked Anna Bager, the IAB's executive vice president of industry initiatives, how the two events differ.

"We recognize that there are different strategy, planning, and buying cycles for brands in different verticals," Bager said. "Attending a spring event doesn't make as much sense for some, a fall event doesn't make sense for others, and for some, both are excellent sources of planning inspiration. Expanding the newfronts to both coasts has enabled us to keep the conversation going about original, ad-supported digital video, as well as other types of original ad-supported digital content (such as audio, podcasts, games, virtual reality, and more) throughout the year."

Despite years of newfront presentations, there are still critics who say the events are unnecessary dog-and-pony shows. TV broadcasters hold upfronts to drive interest in limited commercial inventory, but there's no scarcity with online publishers, they say. Those critics, the IAB says, don't understand the events' value.

"That's an old argument, and clearly what it suggests hasn't turned out to be true," Bager says. "Yes, we can all agree there is less of a planning and buying cycle in online video than there is in TV. In fact, the reality that publishers are developing and releasing original digital shows outside the standard two to three 'seasons' was a major factor in our efforts to expand to the West Coast later in the year. There is so much content to share year-round! But many of the presenters in NewFronts East and West have indicated the value of bringing industry professionals, especially major brand and agency-side buyers, together in a shared space for a short time. Much good can be realized and accomplished in the 'mix' of newfronts."

The 2019 NewFront Week begins on April 29. Look to Streaming Media for daily coverage.

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