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Rain doesn’t dampen AOL NewFronts announcements

April 29, 2014

Celebs such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Richie and Portia De Rossi attended AOL’s NewFronts party at the Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn Tuesday evening, where the digital network announced its new programming slate and gave insight into its video evolution.

Most guests were transported to the event via water taxis, with rain and wind adding to the anticipation of AOL’s presentation.

“This story is not about winners or losers — it’s about sight, and sound and motion,” said Ran Harnevo, president of AOL video, as he described how far the digital platform has come since 400 people showed up to its first NewFronts party 2 years ago (held in an event space that could fit about 225).

AOL announced 10 new shows rounding out its 2014 slate of 16 original series (four returning, two previously announced) for its premium video platform the AOL On Network. It was later revealed that marketing agency DigitasLBi has already purchased exclusive advertising rights to two of the series.

Zoe SaldanaSpanning topics from family and comedy to business and technology, the new shows feature big names both in front of and behind the camera, including James Franco, Kevin Nealon, Katie Holmes, Zoe Saldana (pictured left), Ron Howard and Ellen DeGeneres.

The 10 shows join two previously announced new projects: Park Bench, starring Steve Buscemi, who was also at the event, and AOL’s first long-form half-hour original series, Connected, as well as four returning shows  – #CandidlyNicole, Hardwired 2.0, city.ballet. and The Future Starts Here – which have amassed a combined 75 million views since debuting at last year’s NewFronts.

Sprint will be the exclusive, premiere sponsor of Connected, as per the DigitasLBi deal. The other show, Saldana’s My Hero, will be sponsored by one of the agency’s clients, though the partner was not announced.

The newly-announced shows are as follows:

  • 2014 AOL NewFronts - ArrivalsMaking a Scene with James Franco Each episode will feature actor/director James Franco (pictured, right) and one or more fellow artists discussing a favorite classic movie scene, then recreating it with an irreverent twist. The show is produced by Rabbit Bandini Productions and Trium Entertainment.
  • Kevin Nealon’s Laugh Lessons – Former SNL and Weeds star Nealon enlists some of his fellow stand-up comics to aid him in the challenging task of teaching comedy to kids. Nealon executive produces along with Ellen DeGeneres, Jeff Kleeman, Ed Glavin, Andy Lassner and Mary Connelly for Telepictures.
  • Inspired – A-list celebrities, visionaries and top newsmakers recount the stories behind their most life-changing moments of inspiration. Rick Solomon executive produces for NewForm, a new digital studio launched by Discovery Communications and Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.
  • My Hero – Celebrities pay a surprise tribute to one person who changed their life by giving them an over-the-top, heart-felt surprise. Actress Zoe Saldana (who also stars in an episode) executive produces for Ellen Rakieten Entertainment, a division of Relativity Media and Cinestar Productions.
  • Win/Win – The biggest names in business join a famous athlete for a day of honest conversation, insights and fun. Mike Tollin and Jon Weinbach executive produced for Mandalay Sports Media.
  • That’s Racist – Actor/comedian Mike Epps explores the back stories of humor based on racial stereotypes. Andrew Fried produces for Boardwalk Pictures.
  • Laura Jane GraceSo Much More – An exploration of punk rock singer Tom Gabel’s journey to a life as a transgender woman, Laura Jane Grace (pictured right), who fronts the group Against Me!. Produced by AOL Studios.
  • Follow Me – A docu-series that goes behind the scenes of the lives of digital celebrities and shows what happens when the vlogging, Instagram-ing and tweeting stops – if it ever does. Produced by Full Screen.
  • The Road to Disrupt – A 12-episode docu-series following five startup companies competing in the 2013 San Francisco TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield. Produced by AOL Studios.
  • In Short – A 5-episode series from producers Christine Vachon (Boys Don’t Cry) and Kevin Iwashina (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) that follows actors Katie Holmes, Jeff Garlin, Alia Shawkat, James Purefoy and Judy Greer as they step behind the camera to create their own short-form documentaries.

AOL also announced that it has signed on to participate in a beta program from Nielsen that’s designed to provide a TV-comparable audience measurement across all of AOL’s new series.

The Nielsen beta will deliver GRPs (gross ratings points) that reflect the audience reach by age and gender for AOL’s new programming as an extension of Nielsen Digital Program Ratings, which currently measures TV-originated content viewed online. In addition to measuring content, AOL will be tagging associated advertising using Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings.

With files from Todd Longwell