This year’s Digital Content NewFronts will get down to the nitty gritty with former HQ Trivia host Scott Rogowsky, whom the Interactive Advertising Bureau has tapped to serve as the annual event’s first-ever virtual emcee.
Beginning with the first day of this year’s NewFronts, slated to kick off June 22, Rogowsky will host NewFronts Live, a live morning show previewing each day’s NewFronts programming. He’ll also preside over a daily live wrap-up segment.
The actor and comedian will also provide ongoing commentary throughout the week of presentations, which run from noon to 4 p.m., with help from a different co-host each day: TV[R]EV co-founder and lead analyst Alan Wolk on Monday; Bon Appétit Test Kitchen host Clair Saffitz on Tuesday; Marketplace Tech host and senior editor Molly Wood on Wednesday; and Cheddar business anchor Nora Ali on Thursday. Friday’s host has yet to be determined.
The introduction of NewFronts hosts and co-hosts, which the IAB announced today, is a move aimed at helping make the virtual NewFronts cohesive and entertaining for media and agency partners tuning in to the week of presentations—and creating a potential blueprint for how future NewFronts events could look.
“Nothing about this year has been typical, so it’s fair to say that this NewFronts will be very different from NewFronts of the past,” said IAB president David Cohen. “We’re hoping that it is a sign of things to come. We’re really trying to push the envelope in terms of innovation and engagement, and since the virtual event space is being workshopped in real life in real time, we really want to be the tip of the spear to try some new stuff.”
Rogowsky is best known as HQ Trivia’s “Quiz Daddy”—he appeared on Adweek’s cover in March 2018 as part of a story about the once-popular mobile app—but left the company a year ago. He now hosts a Major League Baseball show on the sports streaming service Dazn as well as the live show IsoLateNight from his apartment. Rogowsky will serve as the connecting thread between presentations throughout the week, broadcasting either from his Manhattan apartment or from a nearby studio.
“I’m humbled and thrilled that the IAB chose me to be hosting and having a front-row seat to all of this,” Rogowsky said. “I owe a great deal of my success lately to the digital space, with HQ and now with Dazn. And when it comes to streaming, when it comes to interactive media, these are all of the trends that have accelerated in this pandemic.”
The week of NewFronts programming will feature a mixture of live and taped presentations from participating companies, ranging from 40-minute standard presentations to 15- to 20-minute insights sessions and even shorter programming. There will be interactive pieces as well, including quizzes, polls and a feature to allow buyers and sellers to connect through a dedicated platform.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, media and agency partners will not be schlepping around downtown Manhattan to various presentations and will instead be streaming them from home. The entirely digital format meant that the IAB began looking into ways to make the event stickier and more engaging for at-home viewers; the organization reached out to Rogowsky as a person they thought “could hold the attention of a group of media and marketing executives and brands whose attention spans are limited,” Cohen said.
“Scott is a digital media pioneer, so it became very obvious fairly quickly that he was the right choice for this,” Cohen said.
For Rogowsky, the timing couldn’t be better: “Without baseball being played right now, this is my new favorite sport,” he said.
Rethinking the NewFronts for the pandemic era
The slow reveal of what the NewFronts will look like this year comes after the annual event has faced a number of changes. The annual presentation week, which had been slated to begin April 27, introduced a streaming option in mid-March before postponing the event by nearly two months due to the pandemic.
The original lineup has changed considerably, but the IAB has signed on a number of first-time presenters, including social platforms TikTok and Snap and free streaming services Tubi and Crackle Plus as usage on some of those platforms climbed considerably during countrywide shutdowns.
The week of presentations will come at a deeply uncertain time for the media industry, which is seeing intense upheaval due to the continued economic fallout from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But it has also presented an unexpected opportunity for the IAB and its presenters: The NewFronts is already expecting many more participants than usual now that travel barriers are no longer a consideration. The organization is anticipating around 10,000 registrants by the time the event occurs, and has already secured 4,000 participants—”far beyond” registration numbers in years past, Cohen said.
“We are fully of the mind that what we learn this year will be something that will be lasting and will be something that we take forward,” Cohen said. “Does it mean that we’ll never have an in-person NewFronts event again? I don’t think so, but I think for the foreseeable future, getting thousands of people together is probably not realistic. So we are going to hopefully use this as a blueprint for what the NewFronts will look like going into the future.”