LOS ANGELES  – A lot can change in a year.

A year ago, as the pandemic bedded in, ad buyers were holding on to their money, pushing it down the marketing funnel and calling for a delay to the upfronts, the traditional annual season in which TV and video networks pitch for advance ad spending commitments.

Fast-forward to May 2021 and, whilst pandemic economic effects have far from disappeared, a few circumstances are coalescing to make the Upfronts and IAB NewFronts a little different.

The new fronts

  • Ad-supported VOD (AVOD) offerings have become bona fide operators.
  • TV networks are cross-selling their traditional channels with their own-brand AVOD services.
  • Live sports has returned.
  • Production has resumed on many shows.
  • The vaccination outlook is giving brands more economic optimism.

In this video interview with Beet.TV, Jay Prasad, chief strategy officer for TV at ad-tech company LiveRamp explains why this time it is different.

“Last year, you know, I don’t even think Peacock was launched yet, Discovery Plus wasn’t out yet, Paramount Plus in its combined form wasn’t out yet,” Prasad says.

“So this is now the first year with all these massively built-up platforms that are owned by the traditional TV media companies that are being combined with a return to normal in live linear with sports.”

Prasad thinks the emergence of the new, network-backed AVODs, plus increasing advertiser appetite for a new kind of media buy, will drive adoption of connected TV (CTV) advertising.

“I think this year’s upfronts are very much going to be focused on what the opportunities are for marketers to really embrace the platform,” he says. “Not just because it’s like digital – it’s because it has unique content experiences, viewing experiences, interactive and creative ad units that don’t exist in traditional TV.”

Over half (54%) of US digital media professionals naming it a leading priority for 2021, per an October 2020 survey by Integral Ad Science.

EMarketer estimates that US CTV ad spend will grow even faster this year than last, up 48.6% year over year (YoY) to $13.41 billion.

New tricks

For Prasad, it’s all about the new capabilities of connected TV.

“A lot of brands that are leaning in with cross screen measurement are able to understand who they’re actually reaching and how often on linear, and then being able to look at audiences and not just demographics,” he says.

“And then there is, of course, the ability to do a lot more audience related profiling targeting, and then measurement becomes something that is a lot more close to real time than we’ve had in the past with TV.

“A brand like Tubi, when it’s creating a customer accounts, it does have an idea of who’s watching. That’s the only way you can create customised playlist and surface recommend viewing and things of that nature.

“So that identity has to be able to work with a brand’s identity or a agency holding companies identity. And that’s the only way that you can get targeting and data to be able to move around.”

You are watching, “The Stream: New Audiences, New Opportunities,” a Beet.TV leadership series presented by Tubi. For more videos, please visit this page.