NBC has a dominant run of broadcast events coming up: the World Cup, the Winter Olympics, and the Super Bowl.
And yet, the media giant spent most of its yearly advertiser lovefest either downplaying the importance of social media giants—or announcing partnerships with them.
This year’s Upfront presentations, where networks attempt to surprise and delight advertisers in order to get their money, were filled with old media companies trying to show just how well they can do new media. NBC mentioned Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, as well as the entertainment the network has sprinkled across them. Snapchat, in which NBC invested $500 million during its IPO, got the most screen time and praise when it came to a social platform for video.
They weren’t alone. Each network that presented last week — NBC, ABC, Turner, The CW, CBS, Univision, Fox, ESPN — preached platforms as ways to meet younger audiences where they are.
The multi-platform or omni-channel strategy is not perfect. Measurement of audiences and advertising effectiveness between television and digital isn’t simple to compare and add up. But it’s come to be necessary.
“Lots of cool things are happening — platforms,” comedian Conan O’Brien said at the end of his sketch with news anchor Anderson Cooper and former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal during Turner’s Upfront.
On a giant iPhone, NBC ran a minute-long video promoting E! News’s “The Rundown,” a Snapchat exclusive series that boasts 8 million views per episode, on average.
To make a not-so apples-to-apples but interesting comparison, E! News brought in 4.4 million viewers for its five-hour coverage of the Golden Globes this year.
Upfronts is television’s week of reminding advertisers that TV isn’t dead. And they’re right, TV isn’t dead… yet. The tube still attracts billions of advertising dollars each year. It’s where audiences, young and old (well, mostly old), tune in to get their daily fix of entertainment, and perhaps, some news.
Of course, audiences and behavior patterns are changing. TV viewership is on a decline (especially among younger people) and cable subscription rates are dropping. Meanwhile, people are spending tons of time with their smartphones—particularly with social media apps.
The beginning of this upfront was NBCU shitting on social media. Now E! is promoting its Snapchat exclusive show.
— Merrill Barr (@MerrillBarr) May 15, 2017
It’s a reality that networks are begrudgingly starting to admit. If advertisers want to reach consumers, they can’t avoid smartphones. And neither can networks with shows they hope young people will watch.
With its emphasis on high-end mobile video, that’s where Snapchat has positioned itself.
“Snap TV’s new original, pre-recorded short-form video content is the new shiny object, so all publishers/networks are jumping on the bandwagon, in the hope that this will be complementary to TV and lure viewers back to traditional TV,” said Boon Yap, VP of partnership and product at Standard Media Index, an advertising research company.
Unlike Facebook or Twitter, which is gunning for longer shows and live-streaming video deals (like baseball), Snapchat isn’t trying to replace TV. That’s part of the appeal — at least to the networks.
“Snap is looking to build something new and complimentary to existing TV, which is a smarter strategy and is ensuring the content is tailored to their platform,” Yap said in comparison to Twitter’s efforts.
Networks aren’t preaching the mobile revolution, just yet. TV, they argue, is still king.
“Television is the most effective advertising means there is. You know it and our friends in Silicon Valley know it,” said Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s chairman of advertising sales, during her company’s Upfront.
NBC will debut “World of Dance” on Snapchat Discover before airing on TV.
It’s getting harder to buy that NBC entirely believes that. Networks are spending more time and resources on tech platforms. For example, next Monday at 6 a.m. ET, NBC will debut “World of Dance” on Snapchat Discover before airing on TV.
The new dance competition, with Jennifer Lopez and hosted by Jenna Dewan Tatum, will premiere on NBC on May 30, and it’s also landing an eight-episode series on Snapchat.
The Snapchat series was filmed in vertical video and made exclusively for the app. NBC is even allowing Snapchat users to swipe to vote in the final episode. Judges Derek Hough and Ne-Yo vote during the dance battles each week, both on the Snapchat series and on TV.
For NBC, the new partnership is about cultivating fans who will, hopefully for advertisers, buy products that are advertised within the shows.
“From an audience perspective, the median age for TV is close to or over 50 years old. The consumption habits of the millennials and younger that the networks are going after are vastly different,” Yap said.
For some networks, it’s less about direct pitches about platforms. It’s the brands, the shows, the talent that are spread among them. Turner’s presentation did not include the words “Facebook,” “Twitter,” “YouTube,” or “Snapchat” despite their partnership with Snapchat, for example.
Indeed, Turner is expected to make a big investment in original shows for Snapchat from TBS, Adult Swim, truTV, Great Big Story and Super Deluxe. It already runs Bleacher Report and CNN on Snapchat Discover and produces sports-related Snapchat Live Stories.
“It’s not one size fits all. It’s the right place and the right environment.”
“We have those integrations, but it goes back to what we were saying about our brands. It’s not one size fits all. It’s the right place and the right environment. Sometimes that might be Facebook, sometimes it might be Snapchat, sometimes it might be YouTube, but when it comes down to it, it’s Cartoon Network,” said Christina Miller, president and general manager of Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang.
These TV networks are providing yet another reason for smartphone users, who are distracted by a myriad of apps (most notably all of the ones that Facebook owns), to open Snapchat. That’s good for Snap Inc., who is in a fierce competition against copycat addict Facebook.
For networks and advertisers, these Snapchat shows are another opportunity to spread brand messaging — whether that’s tuning into the “World of Dance” or buying a Ford truck.
“Even though Snaps disappear your audiences won’t,” read a screen during NBC’s presentation.