2022 Upfront Views from Around the Ecosystem

By: Geoff Wolinetz, Vice President, Client Relationships, FreeWheel

It is an Upfronts year like no other. As TV viewing continues to shift and increase across devices, and the industry embraces programmatic like never before, relationships and cooperation between Agencies and Publishers are as important as ever.

On May 11th, we brought together both buyers and sellers for a lively discussion about the trends and expectations for the upcoming 2021 Upfronts. Our panel was made up of an amazing group of experts from leading Media Agencies and Premium Publishers, including: Larene Mantel, Matterkind; Matt Denerstein, Mindshare; Alex Stone, Horizon; Evan Adlman, AMC; Brendan Garrone, NBCU; and Kevin Arrix, DISH.

The discussion focused on what trends were driving go-to-market decisions for this year, how the rise in CTV viewing and streaming applications will factor into discussions, and how programmatic video will be incorporated into this year’s deal-making.

Overall, there were three clear takeaways:


Seismic Viewership Shift to Connected TV (CTV), but Finite Supply of Premium Inventory – The past year has shown a fundamental shift in how people watch video with the explosive growth of CTV viewership and the launch of new streaming platforms. However, when you remove subscription video on demand (VOD) / ad-free services (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime) and long tail video platforms from those viewership numbers, there is a more limited amount of premium inventory from premium publishers. This finite amount of CTV inventory will factor heavily into upfront discussions. As CTV is fundamentally a digital platform, it will give a lot of flexibility in how it can be transacted on between buyers and sellers.


Programmatic Has Undergone a Significant Makeover – Programmatic has shed its perception of being just for remnant, long tail inventory, without any real transparency for the buyer. Now, it has become a fundamental tool for how blue-chip premium advertisers work with premium video publishers as marketers build out their upfront strategies. Programmatic is now a core mean of transaction. Agencies and publishers will need to work together to continue to demystify programmatic for marketers and to educate them on the benefits of moving a segment of direct insertion order business to new transaction types such as programmatic guaranteed. The most notable benefits being automation and efficiency of marketing dollars.


Relationships Matter in Finding the Win-Win – One of the key lessons learned in the last year is that both sides can come together quickly in making significant changes to find positive outcomes for marketers. As audience fragmentation continues to be an issue both buyers and sellers grapple with, having strong relationships with trusted partners is fundamental to solving how marketers can reach their audiences. Marketers need to have a “people first” approach to reach audiences and to meet viewers where they are watching. To do this, buyers and sellers need to tackle challenges together, looking holistically across all investments from direct and programmatic to help marketers most efficiently reach their target audiences.

As the media ecosystem continues to grow more and more complex, it will be critical that buyers, sellers, and their key partners come together to help marketers unify audiences across all platforms. The discussions and negotiations over the next month will grapple with this complexity and how best to solve them, so that the industry can continue to grow and innovate.

Thank you again to our all of participants for sharing their insights and perspectives with us.