Just four months ago, the Interactive Advertising Bureau heralded an overhaul of its annual Digital Content NewFronts slate, which it was calling the “new NewFronts.” But the IAB had no idea just how “new” this year’s event would become. In mid-March, Covid-19 shut down the industry, and the annual event went virtual soon after and then was postponed nearly two months, from the week of April 27 to this week, a delay that resulted in a significant overhaul of this year’s lineup.
In turn, we’ve morphed the annual nitronet NewFronts roundtable this year. Instead of assembling the group as usual at nitronet’s HQ, we asked a number of execs to weigh in remotely about this wild year: David Cohen, president, IAB; Jim Keller, vp, national ad sales, Hulu; Pamela Drucker Mann, global chief revenue officer and president, U.S. revenue, Condé Nast; Farhad Massoudi, founder and CEO, Tubi (which Fox bought in April); Scott Rosenberg, svp and gm, platform business, Roku; and Tara Walpert Levy, vp, agency and brand solutions, Google and YouTube. They spoke about the virtual NewFronts format, how the streaming and OTT space has evolved during the pandemic and whether they think there will be an in-person NewFronts event next year. Here are highlights from those conversations:
nitronet: What have the biggest challenges been so far as you and your company have settled into this “new normal” during the past three months?
Pamela Drucker Mann: We’ve seen a huge increase in traffic across our portfolio and at the same time, a big shift in marketing spend from advertisers to the second half of the year, which has made forecasting more difficult. But we’ve been incredibly adaptive: We’re collaborating more closely, evolving the way we do business, and really figuring out how to be effective and efficient for our partners.
‘We’ve never seen such variability in advertisers’ situations. As a result, it’s not surprising that flexibility is the No. 1 ask we’re hearing.’ —Tara Walpert Levy, vp, agency and brand solutions, Google and YouTube
Farhad Massoudi: Going through a merger of this magnitude on Zoom is not easy. Staying home, both in terms of communication within Tubi and within Fox—that’s been a challenge. I miss being in the office and just having those collegial conversations in the hallways. Also, I know a lot of people at Tubi and in our community are struggling these days, and I think about it a lot. These are difficult times, especially for some of us. On the other hand, I think we’ve figured out how to communicate over Zoom and there are some efficiencies that we have all learned as a result of working from home. In some ways, the communication has actually drastically improved. Productivity has in certain areas improved quite a bit. We’re going to come out of this stronger, and we’ve learned a lot as a result of this crisis.
Scott Rosenberg: From a business perspective I could not be more proud of our team and how they have come together, supporting one another, while at the same time helping to deliver new resources to support the millions of families now sheltering at home. In less than two weeks after the initial shelter-in-place orders were announced, we were able to get our Home Together initiative up and running, working with more than 20 partners to offer 30 days of free viewing through extended trials within The Roku Channel. We knew this was going to be the “streaming decade,” but we didn’t realize that we would experience as dramatic of a shift in just the first 10 weeks of the decade.
Tara Walpert Levy: I think the biggest challenge has just been juggling it all: our responsibilities to and care for employees, our users and our customers—let alone our families and friends!