MB Road Trip Recap – From NewFronts to Upfronts and Back

MB Road Trip Recap – From New Fronts to Upfronts and Back

The last couple of months or so has been jam-packed with the usual frenzy of client activity, but also something else. In May, our Media Bridge team spent three days at the NewFronts getting the blow-by-blow of changes and opportunities in the media landscape. Then we double-backed to the Upfronts for more up-to-the-minute intel on the shifting TV landscape. After reviewing everything, here are the trends we saw and heard that we know will shape media strategy, execution and engagement for clients in the months to come.



Great start – spending trends up

The IAB opened up the NewFronts by busting the myth about the demise of ad spending. Despite the ups and sometimes downs of the uncertain economy, they report that digital spend climbed 21% over and above 2022 expenditure and is on track to top $55 billion by end of year. Many of those ads are landing squarely in U.S. homes, with more than 85% of households still using CTV devices on a monthly basis.


Model and tech innovations spell opportunity

We saw a ton of model tweaks and new offerings from just about everyone, including:

  • YouTube went short with the launch of Tik-Tok-style YouTube Shorts, which has already scored 1.5 billion logged in users and 50 billion daily views. YouTube Select allows brands to appear only next to top performing shorts and to buy top position.
  • With three out of four U.S. households owning one Samsung device, the company announced a partnership with Kerv Interactive to run QR-enabled creative. The new program scans content being consumed on Samsung TVs and generates a QR code overlay that drives consumers to related product pages, websites and interactive videos on their mobile devices.
  • Roku, the 40-million-household streamer unveiled a new AI product that intelligently places brand creative against contextually relevant moments in TV shows and movies to generate peak-moment audience attention. A new product, Action Ads, also gets Roku into the shoppable ads space. With this feature, viewers press OK on their remotes to have on-screen products shipped directly to them without QR-code intervention.


Major streamers offer smart targeting

  • To increase ad space volume on its growing Freevee ad-supported app, Amazon added 100 of its Originals shows to the platform that were previously available only to Prime viewers, further blurring the line between its subscription and free properties. The streamer also announced more emphasis on NFL targeting, with Amazon insights powering the possibility to target different ad creative to different users in the same ad break.
  • Peacock, just three years old and in 21 million+ households, marked its birthday with three new products. The company launched Power Break which serves customized ads to TV viewers whenever they pause their playback. Marquee enables digital brand placement on scoreboards during live sports streaming events, which was previously only possible on linear games. And Spotlight+ is a new, premium ad package that allows brands to reach audiences across all NBCU-owned linear and streaming screens.



Networks hedge on writers’ strike while streamers deliver new ad tools

The writers’ strike cast a justifiable shadow over the Upfronts proceedings where two key trends were definitely in play. Networks hedged on an uncertain strike outcome with rosters filled out by reruns, in-the-can content and non-scripted shows. And streamers brought new flexibility, adding tools and tech upgrades that promise brands new visibility. Other big moments included:

  • Advertisers demanding flexibility. The ability to switch and cancel ads during the pandemic, as events like the NBA playoffs were cancelled, still appeals to brands who are saying they want to buy a spot versus a set position.
  • Disney announced (outside of the Upfronts) that Hulu content will soon be incorporated into its Disney+ streaming platform, creating a one-app experience for subscribers and more ad opportunities at scale across premium content.
  • YouTube introduced 30-second unskippable ads in top performing videos watched on TVs as well as pause ads which play when a viewer stops video play.
  • Netflix unveiled Sponsorships, allowing brands to sponsor popular Netflix content launches or organize campaigns around themed content collections and packages. Think Holiday, Valentines and more.


TV is in transition

There was also industry consensus that TV continues to be in a major period of transition. With its focus on live events and sports, coupled with an undeniable ability to deliver local audiences, linear TV isn’t going anywhere. But it is becoming a far less dominant part of an overall spectrum of TV watched across traditional broadcast and an expanding universe of digital devices. As this fragmentation continues, NBCUniversal is taking the reins of the problem with its One Platform launch, giving advertisers the ability to reach not just TV viewers but users of social media and YouTube content. Similarly, Warner Bros. Discovery launched WBD Stream, letting brands seamless access advertising opportunities within mobile, desktop and web viewership.


Strategic takeaways

Despite an uncertain economy, linear media and digital streamers continue to reinvent the playing field for however consumers want to press play next. As brands consider both upfront buys in the future they should also keep these strategies firmly in mind to maximize campaigns in the new TV landscape:

  1. As you buy linear upfront time and placements, with 64% of marketers seeing CTV as a key platform, it’s now essential to elevate the role of CTV into the equation, which provides programmatic flexibility throughout your campaigns
  2. Look for a CTV partner that can guarantee brand placement during prestige content in order to maximize positive association between your brand, platform and high-visibility content
  3. Ensure you auto-optimize any CTV programmatic buy to fully harness the vast amount of data CTV can now provide.


Contact us for more insights and custom planning in the new media landscape.