Jay-Z Rocks Crowd as YouTube Caps Internet's Answer to TV Upfronts

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Jay-Z performs "Empire State of Mind" at the Beacon Theater at the Google / YouTube "Brandcast": the Internet company's version of a television "upfront."

The first ever digital newfronts — the Internet’s answer to TV’s upfronts, where new offerings are shown to advertisers — wrapped up at the Beacon Theater Wednesday night with Jay-Z performing "Empire State of Mind."

Similar to TV upfronts, the evening mixed performances (ranging from alt-rock band Neon Trees to rapper Flo Rida) with a preview of new shows. Unlike TV upfronts, they were also pitching the comparative advantage of digital advertising: the ability to target many very specific demographics, from moms to tweens.

Paul Longo, SVP, digital director at MediaVest, a major digital ad buyer, called it a "coming out party for digital." 

"It’s about tailored targeted ads, versus ads to the masses,” he said.

Google emphasized that these targeted ads could amplify the effect of tradition TV commercials. They also announced that they would be spending upwards of $200 million to promote their new shows.

Amie Esler, director of consumer marketing for MTV, was there mostly to see what the fuss was about. MTV currently has a YouTube channel, but its purpose is to drive viewers back to their televisions or the MTV website.

"I don’t think we would ever give away our content to a YouTube," she said.

On the other hand, she does see younger people consuming more and more video online. “I think when TV goes away, if it ever does, YouTube’s gonna be a big player in the space,” she said.