The NewFronts began in earnest on Monday, so let’s explain what the NewFronts are. In April, we described the TV upfronts to newcomers as the annual period in which platforms unveil their portfolio’s new programming slates in an attempt to dazzle potential advertisers. Think of the NewFronts as exactly the same, just (generally) for free digital platforms. They’re so much alike, in fact, that the terms “upfront” and “NewFront” are often used interchangeably (mostly the traditional “upfront” to describe a newfangled “NewFront”) and nobody really notices or cares.
We’ve got exactly two weeks until NBCUniversal and Fox kick off the busy broadcast upfront week, which also includes YouTube Brandcast this year (as lines are hazy at best these days) and premium AVOD offerings from major media companies. With nearly 40 NewFronts to squeeze in before NBCU kicks off the upfronts, we’d better get going. While the same company’s Peacock had a big presence at 11 a.m. ET this morning, the day did not get off to a FAST start. We’ll explain.
Peacock is one of the main reasons we needed that “generally” in parentheses above. While the streaming service has a free tier, it also has AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) and SVOD (subscription video on demand) levels. Advertisers and media buyers have no use for the $9.99 per month commercial-free option, so Peacock’s brunch-time presentation from the Highline Stages ostensibly ignored that one.
Though its free tier has more than a dozen FAST (free ad-supported streaming television) channels, the NewFront pitch pretty much shrugged those off too in favor of touting the platform’s originals, a new “Pay 2” window deal for Lionsgate theatrical films, the expediting of NBCU’s Bravo shows on a next-day basis to Peacock, and, of course, ad innovation. Peacock’s big product unveiling was the In-Scene Ad, which can integrate a brand’s timely product or messaging via visual effects during post-production.
“This prototype aims to find the right moments within top shows for more personalized messaging,” Peacock said. Get a load of the example below with a timely and totally natural ad for Universal Picture’s “Jurassic World Dominion,” which comes to theaters — and apparently upscale outdoor basketball courts — on June 10.
That guy looks ready to ball – and then to immediately go catch the latest Chris Pratt blockbuster.
FAST may have been waiting in the wings on Monday morning — but when it arrived, it came, well, FAST. This afternoon, Tubi, which has the largest library (more than 40,000 titles) in the free streaming space, revealed it is finally adding its first FAST entertainment channels. (The Fox-owned free-streaming service previously launched FAST news channels in February 2021 and for sports in August.)
Among the inaugural slate of linear-like preprogrammed channels are one for “The Masked Singer,” another for the “TMZ” newsmagazine show, and a third dedicated to Gordon Ramsay programming. Tubi, which first entered the originals game in the fall, also said it will debut more than 100 titles in the next 12 months, doubling its originals content slate. The growth was already there in terms of audience: Tubi tallied 51 million active users last quarter and 3.6 billion hours watched in 2021. That total-viewing time is up 40 percent from 2020.
“The line between NewFront and upfront continues to blur,” TVREV co-founder and lead analyst Alan Wolk, the guy who literally created the FAST acronym back in 2018, told IndieWire from on-the-ground in Manhattan on Day 1 of the event. “This year the NewFronts were all about television. No one was talking about ‘creators.’ No one was talking about ‘publishers.’ It was all about TV and TV advertising and TV programming. FASTs were truly the stars of the NewFronts as the emphasis seems to be on companies with major FAST platforms and the original TV series they were launching.”
Through last year’s virtual NewFronts, IndieWire parent company Penske Media was among the publishers in attendance (and hopefully being talked about). Count PMC, BuzzFeed, Vice, and BBC News, to name a few, in the group no longer presenting to digital-media buyers at the NewFronts.
Executives at Amazon Freevee are nodding in agreement with Wolk (and us). This evening, the former IMDb TV revealed that it has upped its own FAST offering to more than 75 channels (from 35 at this time last year), adding channels dedicated to Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience” and the original “Kids in the Hall” comedy series, for a few examples born north of or border. (“Judy Justice” and “Bosch” already had their own FAST Freevee channels; IMDb TV launched FAST channels in Fall 2020.)
Like Tubi, Freevee is expanding its slate of originals. Last month, the FAST-and-library hybrid announced it was growing its originals slate by 70 percent. Among five new greenlights shared this evening, the free Amazon streaming service (it’s like Prime Video, just without the premium series or the 2-day retail shipping!) announced an “America’s Test Kitchen” spinoff, coming-of-age drama “Beyond Black Beauty,” a Play-Doh competition series, and a Post Malone music documentary. It also renewed “Bosch: Legacy” for a second season and ordered two more seasons of “Uninterrupted’s Top Class: The Life and Times of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers.”
Like Peacock, Freevee is also stacking up films via studio deals. Freevee execs also said on Monday they’ve set a short-term film licensing agreement with the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution for a limited selection of titles like “Deadpool,” “Deadpool 2,” Logan,” “Hidden Figures,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” and “The Post.” Speaking of NBCU, Freevee previously worked out an agreement for an exclusive network-window for films from Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s 2020-21 theatrical slate, including “Dolittle,” “The Invisible Man,” “Promising Young Woman,” “F9,” and “Sing 2.”
If you missed any of today’s NewFronts, don’t worry, there are a few dozen more between Tuesday and Thursday.