For all the glitz and glamour that surrounded Aol's Newfronts programming preview on Tuesday, perhaps the most relevant news for advertisers came at the end of the showcase with a mention of the unsexiest of topics: back-office operations designed to support the thousands of hours of digital video, along with analytics.
Following appearances by actors like Sarah Jessica Parker, Hank Azaria and Nicole Ritchie to promote their new Aol video series, the company discussed the new deal with media buying workflow software provider Mediaocean and digital video rights manager FreeWheel, as well as a new deal with Nielsen to provide "TV comparable" ratings for Aol's online video.
FreeWheel is billing this new arrangement with Mediaocean, which is being inaugurated with Aol but will be rolled out across their respective new and old clients over the next few months as its "FourFronts solution."
"There is no such thing as online video," said FreeWheel co-founder and co-CEO Jonathan Heller in an interview with AdExchanger after the Aol presentation. "There is only TV. Marrying our distribution capabilities with Mediaocean and their presence in the buying community makes the point that in order for the video ad buying process to work, it has to be end-to-end. Or it doesn't work at all."
Cross-platform sales are a particular pain point for TV media buyers since very little overlap exists between reporting and ordering. The other complaint agencies often voice is a lack of premium inventory for web video and that it may bear a superficial resemblance to TV, but when it comes to executing a buy, it couldn't be more different or complicated.
With Mediaocean's buying software in place with agencies for both display and TV, plus with FreeWheel's ability to transfer video from TV to digital, Nielsen will provide the measurement option.
Or, as Aol's SVP of video Ran Harnevo awkwardly calls it, "visurement." [Correction: This last line was misheard-DK]
"If we want TV to get closer to the web, we have to measure both the same way," Harnevo told the midtown crowd at the Moynihan Station, the huge event space adjoining the city's main post office.
John Burbank, Nielsen's president of Strategic Initiatives, was then called to stage. He said, "We will measure Aol's video content in an overnight fashion, just like we do for TV, so advertisers and agencies can understand who's watching."
Nielsen will measure every Aol video impression in a way intended to be comparable to TV. Still, this is just another step in Aol's video ad sales strategy and not a game-changer, as comScore already provides a similar metric. But given Nielsen's position as the standard for TV, Aol's declaration that this could become the new standard for online video isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.
Aol as the "new TV" was embedded in practically every presentation. And in some ways, given the similar TV-centric ambitions that Yahoo projected at its NewFront the night before, there is a recognition – if not a resignation – that online video values of "watching what you want, whenever you want" may be the rule for all content consumption now and in the future. However, when it comes to content quality, ad delivery and measurement, TV continues to be king.
That sentiment was brought home in a brief appearance by another new Aol partner, Mark Cuban, whose AXS TV cable network will be the terrestrial home for HuffPost Live, the portal's 12-hour news webcast.
"Eighteen years ago, when we started AudioNet to stream live, I thought TV was going to be dead in a few years," Cuban said. "But it's not. What changed? Social media. We started telling each other what we were watching. Social media drives TV and TV drives social media. You can't just be on mobile. You can't just be on a tablet. You're going to watch what you want on whatever's the best screen. And TV is the best screen and it's more alive than ever before."