Since its start 50 years ago, the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) has attracted seemingly every player from the traditional entertainment world. Countless television programs have been pitched and countless deals have been struck at the conference. But a new conversation has emerged at the annual event, one that’s focused on digital entertainment. According to NATPE CEO Rod Perth, a large representation of digital companies is one reason NATPE’s attendance is “significantly” above last year’s 5,000 mark.

We were one of those digital companies attending for the first time. After three days of Miami heat, here are my four takeaways on the fresh digital side of NATPE.

1. The playing field is open for breakthrough digital advertising

This may be old news for most of us, but for a conference that originally established itself as a marketplace for linear, traditional programming, it’s a significant revelation. Bill O’Dowd of Dolphin Digital Media said, “Primetime TV ads have a fixed schedule and a set limit. Digital ads are limitless.”

In the days of prime time TV advertising, only big brands could afford to market themselves through video, because TV was the only place with a predictable audience. Today, the proliferation of sites like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and various other digital video platforms have enabled companies and marketers of all shapes and sizes to create their own original content at a fraction of the cost of traditional television advertising.

2. Exceptional talent and their audiences are their own distribution channels

No matter how well-produced or creative the content is, it will never rise above the white noise of the web without a savvy distribution strategy. One of the smartest ways to ensure a successful digital launch is collaborating with talent that brings their own audience to the table. Whether it’s a YouTuber like Grace Helbig or more mainstream talent like Courtney Love (see the deal Endemol and Love struck at NATPE), established personalities drive awareness, and are distribution channels in and of themselves.

Sandra Stern of Lionsgate affirmed this thought, by simply stating, “Everyone wants to know what kind of whiskey Don Draper drinks.”

3. Spend more time on your earned media strategy.

At NATPE, Unilever presented its campaign for Hellmann’s Mayonnaise with well-known chef Mario Batali. They integrated the video content seamlessly with what would otherwise seem like normal press features on his culinary process, recipes and tips. It served as third-party, unbiased validation and amplified their message to a wider audience.

The right press hits will help your video gain momentum, and in some cases they may be all you need to start off a sharing domino effect.

4. Experiment with TV content online before you sell it to the network.

More and more people need to see proof of concept before network activation. There’s no better place to experiment than on platforms like YouTube. With low barriers to entry, affordable production requirements, and a massive and hyper-engaged audience, YouTube is the perfect testing ground for TV.

Such was the case for our web series White Collar Brawler, which is about to have its second original series premiere on Esquire Network. Unlike traditional mediums, if your work strikes a chord, be prepared for a two-way conversation. You’ll have enough analytics, comments, views and engagement to know whether it’s worth taking to television in no time.

Drew Glover is Head of Partnerships at Portal A, a creative studio in San Francisco and Los Angeles that develops, produces, and distributes entertainment built for the web. He has formed partnerships and managed deals with leading brands such as YouTube, Jawbone, AARP, Benefit Cosmetics, Sephora and Banana Republic. Previously, he served as co-founder of the loyalty startup Giving. Glover is an Oakland-native and UC Berkeley graduate. Follow him @DrewBailer.

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