This week’s Digital Content NewFronts come at an opportune time for the industry to address the shrinking gap between digital content and broadcast media. Taking a leaf out of TV’s book, the NewFronts are modeled from an aged TV tradition (the upfront) and provide the platform for leading digital content producers to showcase their original web series. In the process, companies such as Yahoo, AOL, YouTube, and Hulu hope to convince advertisers (and their dollars) that digital content is ready for prime-time attraction. Let’s face it: Without major advertising greenbacks, content from these top online video destinations will struggle to survive.
The NewFronts have created quite the industry buzz, and anticipation for the event has been amplified by the silence regarding specific plans. However, as the event commenced on April 19, online video giant Hulu broke the silence in style by introducing a number of new web series with the help of some famous talent, including live performances from Megan Hilty and Mayer Hawthorne. But, before diving into the juicy details of Hulu’s new programming, let’s skim the surface of some impressive statistics Hulu presented to flex its muscles of digital dominance for attending advertisers.
Hulu, the joint-venture of three entertainment titans (NBCUniversal, Fox Entertainment Group, and Disney-ABC Television Group), announced staggering revenue of $420 million for 2011, and that Hulu Plus, the company’s U.S. subscription service, surpassed more than 2 million paid subscribers in Q1 of this year, acquiring them faster than any video subscription service in U.S. history. An online service subscription rate that trumps all rates of the past is a clear indication of the need for original video content to satiate the masses ditching the disk to embrace digital.
In addition to restating Hulu rankings from a February comScore release, Hulu announced important statistics exclusive to Thursday’s NewFront. For example, not only is Hulu the U.S.’s leading video advertising service with the most video ads online, but it also represents 20 percent and 40 percent of the online video and premium video marketplace, respectively. Furthermore, in February alone, Americans watched 2.5 billion videos on Hulu, which the company calculated to be 1,000 videos a second.
As if these statistics weren’t enough to woo advertisers, Hulu packed the room with celebs, including documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, SNL’s Seth Myers, Adrian Grenier of “Entourage,” and “Smash” star Megan Hilty, who flexed her vocal chords to entertain attendees with a rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
With all the star-studded action in the room, Hulu somehow managed to detail what it has been doing with the $420 million it acquired in 2011. Although we are already familiar with a few of Hulu’s programs, including the workplace political dramedy “Battleground,” the Morgan Spurlock docu-series “A Day in the Life,” and the Richard Linklater docu-series “Up To Speed,” the company announced several additions to its original series lineup.
The series “We Got Next” will detail the lives of four unlikely friends as they collide on and off the basketball court and star Kenya Barris, Hale Rothstein, and Danny Leiner. “The Awesomes,” which stars Seth Meyers and Michael Shoemaker, centers upon a modest superhero and his cohorts as they encounter villains and ever-present paparazzi, while facing the emotional toll of an undesirable reputation as second-rate crime fighters. “Don’t Quit Your Daydream” transverses America with famous musicians looking to collaborate with failed musical artists in hopes of giving them a second chance at fame. The series is based on Adrian Grenier and John Loar’s award-winning documentary and stars Adrian Grenier. And lastly, “Flow” follows Ed Dante, a hard-working kid from the wrong side of the tracks as he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and begins a quest for justice, starring Michael “Dooma” Wendschuh and David Belle.
It is important to note the big names taking part in Hulu’s new series. Because, with the reported $500 million Hulu plans to spend developing content this year, the company has to entice advertisers to spend, which is made easier by the promise of top talent. In addition, Hulu’s SVP of advertising, JP Colaco, recently wrote the following on the company’s blog: “Hulu advertisers will not be charged unless their advertisement has been streamed through completion; in other words, an advertisement that has been 100 percent delivered. There will be no extra cost to Hulu advertisers for this service.” Clearly, Hulu wants to convince all that now is the time to invest in online video. As Colaco states, advertisers are “allocating billions of dollars, and they should think about allocating a significant portion of their budgets to online video.”
In an interview with Video Nuze, Mark Beeching, Digitas’ head of global creative, was asked to define success for the Digital Content NewFronts. In response, Beeching said, “If it wraps up after a couple of weeks, then it’s not success. It’s not about the ‘day’ or the ‘buy.’ It’s more about big projects being conceived and unleashed.” Under these conditions, Hulu’s NewFront on day one of the Digital Content NewFronts appears to be a huge success.
Kyle Montero is an editor at iMedia Connection.
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“So much watching to watch” image by huluDotCom via YouTube.