A Cord-Cutter at the Newfronts

Written by AdMonsters’ U.S. Editor Gavin Dunaway for The Makegood.

Portrait of a cord cutter – you’re looking at it. Disturbing, a little serial killer-esque, I know.

Five years ago, I moved to NYC from DC with a laptop and an iPod as my only media consumption devices. Eventually I got a TV, and then another – one a smart TV, the other hooked up to an Apple TV, both with easy access to my Netflix and Hulu Plus accounts. The $3 antenna I bought from the discount store delivers a pretty impressive signal on the rare occasions I use it. Every week, my Internet provider wastes postage and paper trying to offer me some amazing deal for adding cable and phone service. (Hardline? How 20th century.)

Am I forward thinking? Perhaps just cheap? Probably more the latter than the former, but overall I’m pigheaded – if I’m going to consume media, I want to watch what I want, when I want to. I’m not a slave to any media company’s schedule. Even with live sporting events, my flexibility is improving – at AdMonsters’ OPS TV, July 18 in NYC, Lee Bushkell from the PGA Tour will demonstrate how its giving golf fans access to all the live events they can consume across any device.

I don’t just flip on the TV when I come home from work – I used to decompress from a day at the office by finding some variety of “Law & Order” repeat on whichever basic cable channel. But just as it’s morphed the advertising landscape, technology has changed – really, empowered – visual media consumers (all right, call ‘em TV viewers).

So much of TV programming – I’m especially pointing to you, basic-cable reality shows I see advertised in the subway –seems like junk food media. Not even comfort food, but cheap trash you shove in your face for no good reason and then you feel bad about consuming later. When I get that junk food craving, I have a different source these days: I head to the Internet and watch cat gifs.

I want my “TV” on demand, on whichever device I choose. That’s why I’ll join the chorus suggesting that the digital content newfronts truly broke through this year. Why I left them saying, “Oh – these guys get me.”

Portal to Tomorrow

Upfront culture has always felt alien to me. I get it’s about showing off to the buyers – parading your glamorous stars at a gaudy party overflowing with top-shelf drink, mouth-watering hors ’devours and swank décor. Maybe I’ve read too many snarky media critics scoffing at the content previewed, and that I tend to write about the unsexy business of ensuring the piping works and flow is efficient (and profitable), but upfronts have always left a tacky residue in my throat.

What’s worse than a tacky display? A pale imitation. And that was my previous opinion of newfronts – I’d hit a couple as the senior editor at Adotas, and while the food and drink were fine, the content left something to be desired. C-list celebrities – some of whom I were surprised were still considered relevant, or even alive – promoting rather unimpressive pieces of work, sometimes looking like something off a public access channel. I could see a limited audience at best for any of the works, which might work fine for some niche advertisers.

However, digital video content has really come into its own in the last year. Even though I’ve long been an Onion follower, I was a bit shocked how much time I spent on YouTube watching last year’s “Sex House” and “Porkin’ Across America.” Both left me screaming in joy to the point the neighbors complained. I’m on the fence about the proposed YouTube subscription model, but that was programming I would definitely pay for: it was well-scripted, well-acted, well-shot and not cheap.

Oh yeah, it was also on-demand for the consumer.

At the Aol NewFront in particular, there was nonstop name-dropping of “House of Cards.” That was a bold investment in high-quality, on-demand content on Netflix’s part that seems to have paid off. It also seems to have invigorated digital media producers such as Aol – the closing title speaker at this year’s OPS TV – which showed in its newfront how much it’s stepped up its game.

Read Gavin’s entire column on The Makegood