We're down in NY this week attending the much-anticipated media upfront, where the new Fall television programming is unveiled to advertisers and media buyers. The event is a rite of Spring in the ad world, with networks vying for roughly $9 Billion in advertising dollars. And the current dynamics of the media landscape - where more and more people are time- and place-shifting their viewing - have made negotiating these buys even more complex.
To combat slumping ratings, the networks are looking to an unprecedented number of platforms for distributing their content and generating additional advertising revenue. NBC proclaimed this loud and clear at its kick-off presentation, :30 and Beyond.
NBC Entertainment President Kevin Riley acknowledged, "The game has changed. Americans still love television, but our audiences want to talk with us, not be talked at." The network has acknowledged the growing importance of new media channels, and has challenged itself and its content producers to develop "maximum advertiser impact" through creative collaboration, giving both advertisers and viewers more options on air, online, on demand, and on-the-go.
Moving forward, every NBC show will have a "boundless" next step: either through online footage, streaming video, audience interaction like text-to-vote, consumer generated content, online communities, WAP sites, and anything else creative minds can come up with. The network unveiled its new video player and "Host a Viewing Party" feature, which encourages groups to jointly watch the programming and discuss it via real-time chat.
And while it may seem like hype, we have seen glimpses of this new model in action:
- Last month, we commented on the success of Heroes, and the volume of streaming episodes it has enjoyed while on hiatus. Tonight, NBC reached out to this rabid fan base and asked them to click over to NBC.com and provide feedback on the planned Fall line up. Next season, we'll see a Heroes spinoff called Origins, and NBC will ask its fans to vote on which character from the new show should stay and join the regular cast.
- Also planned for Fall is a new program from Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City) called Lipstick Jungle. The on-air Bonfire Magazine at which the characters work will simultaneously come to life online via a joint venture between NBC and iVillage.
- Fan favorite The Office will be complemented with The Office 360 - an online opportunity to start your own branch of Dunder Mifflin, select your employees, and host viewing parties of the on-air show.
And that's just a few. The convergence of online and offline media buying has been a long time coming, but it's good to see that it's finally here. I expect there will still be hiccups in the actual buying and negotiation process across media, but the opportunities to surprise and delight our collective audiences are indeed boundless.