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Video and Streaming Take Center Stage at 2021 IAB NewFronts

6 MINUTE READ | May 14, 2021

Video and Streaming Take Center Stage at 2021 IAB NewFronts

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Natalee Geldert, Head of Brand Media

Natalee Geldert has written this article. More details coming soon.

In previous years, thousands of marketing executives would have flocked to Manhattan for a weeklong ‘pitchfest.’ The 2021 IAB NewFronts were delivered virtually, without the usual fanfare of vendor parties, shrimp cocktails, or live music shows, but with an exciting array of opportunities for digital advertisers. 

The event featured more than 35 media entities, with newcomers such as A+E Networks, Amazon, Entercom, Estrella Media, and Vizio taking the stage to tout their programming lineups and advertising offerings. Notably absent from NewFronts this year was a session by Hulu. Instead, Disney, which now owns Hulu, plans to integrate Hulu into its company-wide showcase in the May 18 UpFronts event.

This year, NewFronts presenters doubled down on one clear objective: Platforms and media companies are making it easier to buy inventory and restructuring the video marketplace into a more cohesive and streamlined ad buying environment. “Streaming is the future, and the future is now,” said IAB CEO David Cohen. “Consumers make no distinction between different forms of video, and there is an urgent need not only to recognize this reality but also reorganize our industry to support it.” 

Between the unveiling of new original programming and media presentations that explored the latest viewership trends, there were plenty of memorable moments coming out of the 2021 IAB NewFronts event. Today’s post features the key themes from across social, programmatic, and brand media sessions, as well as highlights from a few of our favorite media partners. 

The digital advertising industry has largely recovered from the events of 2020, and much faster than anticipated, with connected TV providers and media companies benefiting from a surge in advertiser demand and investment, as well as climbing viewership numbers. Though nearly every state in the U.S. is slowly reopening movie theaters, viewers are still enjoying their favorite content and movies from the comfort of their homes via smart TVs and other connected devices. Increased spending on entertainment, among other consumer trends brought on by the pandemic, is retaining its popularity and stickiness as the majority of countries begin to return to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy. 

Interestingly, primetime broadcast ratings dropped 21 percent in 2020 as upfront rates increased 13 percent, according to Roku’s NewFronts presentation. More purchases of connected devices and growing viewership trends are creating more opportunities to reach viewers in more digital environments that expand viewing and engagement beyond linear TV. 

In other words, right-sizing spend in streaming to match viewership is what’s driving the TV industry forward. Collectively, viewers are watching between 40-50 million hours of Connected TV (CTV) every day in the U.S., with the average CTV viewer clocking 30 or more minutes a day. Millions of viewers are heading to their living rooms to tune in, not zone out, and spending screen time with their favorite artists, shows, live sports, programming, and movies via CTV experiences.

Before the pandemic led to stay-at-home orders and a surge in streaming TV viewership and binge-watching, many media companies were already gearing up to produce more original content and capitalize on the rise of streaming – An investment that certainly paid off in the midst of last year. The good news is that the breadth, caliber, and quality of original content slated for 2021-2022 will only accelerate these pandemic-induced TV viewing trends. 

Partners like Roku will soon be taking on the likes of Netflix, Disney, and HBO for viewers, announcing at this year’s NewFronts that the hardware-company-turned-media-brand will venture into original programming for the first time. Meanwhile, Condé Nast, Snap, and Crackle continue to rapidly expand their lineups of original content.

To stand out in a crowded and competitive market, ad-supported streaming platforms are signing on top talent, such as Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Hart, Kendall Jenner, and more, to star in new original programming. By tapping some of Hollywood’s biggest names and influential voices, brands like Crackle and Vogue are using star power to help build buzz and drive viewership during the launch of their original content offerings. 

Propelled by consumer behavior during the pandemic, platforms from TikTok to YouTube took a moment during their respective NewFronts sessions to highlight the significant increases in time spent across their apps last year and what those trends mean for the future of content creation and social platforms. 

Both Snap and Twitter touted over 30 percent year-over-year increases in time spent with their respective content lineups. As a result, both companies will be investing even more in developing partnerships that deliver high-quality, premium content on their platforms. Meanwhile, TikTok continues to dominate the influencer landscape, signing high-profile creator partnerships with established and emerging talent. Coming out of this year’s NewFronts, social platforms are betting big on high-profile creators and influencers to continue fine-tuning their storytelling capabilities and sharing entertaining content that attracts advertisers and drives user engagement and audience growth.

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  • BlackTag, a new global streaming platform launching in 2021, will highlight content created by black creators and artists.

  • Roku released its OneView Dashboard for streaming TV ad buying across all channels and devices. This capability allows advertisers the flexibility to manage delivery, frequency, and reach across all four screens — linear, digital, desktop, and mobile, — at scale, without relying on cookies. 

  • Meredith touted that its portfolio of 40+ publishers reached over 186 million consumers in 2020. The media company utilized its NewFronts presentation to showcase a variety of new video series that are centered on women’s empowerment as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

  • Twitch, most well-known for gaming livestreams, saw an incredible 188 percent increase in non-gaming content in 2020, and will soon be adding new, brand-centric, live streaming channels, giving viewers a custom interactive experience directly with their favorite brands.

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