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The Bold Changes of Upfronts 2024 that are Redefining Media

Jeff Bilotta
Jeff Bilotta  |  Senior Director - Video Investment
Updated: May. 30, 2024
Published: May. 20, 2024

2024 marked a pivotal moment in upfront advertising as tech giants like Amazon and Netflix transformed the traditional linear Upfront Week. This year featured their first in-person upfronts—Netflix, having canceled their 2023 event in favor of a virtual format. Their bold participation sparked industry curiosity about what they were bringing to the market, challenging traditional players like NBC, Disney, and WBD, whose announcements were overshadowed. Paramount/CBS opted for more intimate in-person meetings over large-scale presentations. Amazon, Netflix, and Google/YouTube have now risen to prominence alongside established broadcast networks, becoming major forces in content, talent, and scale.

A shift in market dynamics and consumption patterns at the 2024 upfront

The inclusion of streaming-first tech giants in the upfront week has brought about a significant shift in the metrics for determining media consumption. It's no longer about linear or streaming consumption in isolation but about consumption across a media company’s entire ecosystem. This reality was underscored by Nielsen's release of their new gauge consumption metric on Tuesday, a development highlighted at Disney’s event as they were leading in the new metric.

NIelsen Media Distributor Gauge

It's worth noting that the consumption metric includes all consumption, not just ad-supported. For instance, while Netflix may rank 6th in this new metric, only about 10% of that consumption is ad-supported. In contrast, traditional companies rely heavily on ad-supported consumption, particularly in the sports sector.

Another interesting finding is YouTube's evolving role. It's now delivering nearly 50% of its audience via the living room's big screen, indicating that it's no longer just a mobile-first media but a linear device for consumers.

The prominence of sports in upfronts 2024

The topic of sports leads the way for live viewership, and announcements about sports were critical points of discussion throughout the week. Starting Monday, NBC continued to promote the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris, comparing the total audience across the three weeks to 8 Super Bowls. Interestingly, Dan Lovinger from NBC also appeared at the Roku Newfront to promote their Olympic hub within the Roku user experience. This shift marks a new era of cross-pollination in the industry, with executives now appearing at events beyond their own media company's traditional boundaries, signaling more collaborative and open strategies. Additionally, focusing on the ‘24 Olympics is likely an effort to avoid the losses that NBC incurred from the ‘21 Tokyo Olympics that COVID-19 impacted.

The NBA was also spotlighted during the first week as they continued negotiating their current television rates. Incumbent, WBD briefly touched on the negotiations, saying if they move forward, it would be for “A deal made sense.”

Next, let’s talk about the NFL, once again, the belle of the ball. The NFL continues to be the primary audience driver in the marketplace, spreading their rights to all four broadcast networks and two streamers. NBC touted the dominance of Sunday Night Football, FOX promoted the upcoming Super Bowl in New Orleans, and their new relationship with Tom Brady, and Disney trotted out their newest talent acquisition, Jason Kelce, who will be a part of their Monday Night Football pre-game show. The largest announcement was the NFL is now working with Netflix, bringing two games exclusively to the streamer on Christmas Day.

This is just another signal that Netflix continues its slow march to become a major live events player. Between its announcement earlier this year with WWE and the success of the Roast of Tom Brady, coupled now with the NFL, it is clear that Netflix has its sights set on securing live eyeballs.

On the traditional side of the house, it was noteworthy that there was a clear move for scaled-back investment from a programming standpoint, leading to more traditional media companies leading with audience segmentation and business outcomes within their ecosystem. Additionally, consolidated was the name game in the streaming space, with Peacock bundling with Netflix and Apple+, Hulu and WBD announcing a new partnership, and Venu Sports, the joint sports venture between Disney, FOX, and WBD, all gaining press during upfront week.

As the industry undergoes significant changes, it's crucial to chart a clear path encompassing both linear and streaming media. This outlook is not just a trend but a pivotal market shift that demands our attention and strategic planning.

Rethinking upfront commitments for a new era

The 2024 Upfronts have prompted brands and agencies to rethink their approach to media buying. Increasingly, advertisers seek greater flexibility over their budgets, demanding the ability to adjust target audiences across campaigns and move towards more outcome-based solutions. This shift is driven by a rapidly fragmenting media landscape and the need for strategies that adapt to consumer behavior and economic fluctuations.

Simulmedia is at the forefront of this evolution, leveraging advanced data analytics to offer precise audience targeting and efficient media plan adjustments any time of the year. Our approach reduces the reliance on traditional upfront commitments, allowing for more strategic and cost-effective advertising. With capabilities like cross-platform campaign management and rapid activation, Simulmedia provides the tools necessary for advertisers to achieve dynamic, data-driven media buying across multiple channels.

As the industry continues to evolve, Simulmedia's innovative solutions ensure advertisers can navigate this new terrain effectively, maximizing reach and impact while maintaining flexibility and control over their advertising investments.

The case for a more holistic advertising approach

During this year's upfronts, many publishers, including Warner Bros. Discovery, showcased their proprietary data-driven solutions, such as the 'Olli' platform, which offers integrated planning, activation, and measurement across its portfolio. A client recently inquired whether 'Olli' competes directly with Simulmedia. Our response highlights a crucial distinction: while 'Olli' and similar platforms provide campaign efficiency, targeting, and cross-platform reach, they inherently limit brands to their media properties. This confinement necessitates that advertisers engage with multiple platforms to fully realize their campaign objectives, leading to increased complexity, fragmented reporting, and potential inefficiencies in ad delivery.

Unlike these publisher-centric solutions, Simulmedia operates across over 250 publishers in TV and CTV, offering a more holistic and efficient approach. Our deep data insights and proprietary algorithms allow us to continuously optimize media allocations to maximize reach, reduce frequency, and lower costs effectively. Our capabilities extend beyond single networks to substantially improve brand impact, ROI, and unified reporting across all media channels.

By leveraging our extensive network and advanced technology, Simulmedia transcends the limitations faced by platforms like 'Olli,' providing advertisers with streamlined campaign management, enhanced cross-media transparency, and superior efficiency. This approach not only simplifies the advertising process but also ensures optimal performance and results across the diverse media landscape.

Charting the Course: Navigate Upfronts 2024 with Confidence and Precision

As the dynamics of the upfronts continue to evolve, Simulmedia remains committed to pioneering the future of media buying with strategies that embrace flexibility, data-driven insights, and cross-platform integration. In a market that increasingly demands more from media investments, our holistic approach ensures advertisers can effectively navigate linear and streaming media complexities.

For advertisers looking to optimize their strategies in this new era, partnering with Simulmedia means access to innovative solutions that transcend traditional limitations and maximize advertising ROI. Ready to enhance your media buying strategy with unparalleled insights and efficiency? Contact Simulmedia today to start transforming your advertising approach for the 2024 upfronts and beyond.