Inside NBCUniversal’s Billion-Dollar Bet on Data-Based Advertising

The company takes the training wheels off its Audience Studio suite

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For years, media buyers have struggled with the disconnect between the “inordinate amount of time” they spend defining custom targets and audiences for their clients, “and then ultimately, when we go to market, we end up buying a Nielsen age/sex demo, adults 18-49. It’s entirely disingenuous to the front part of the process,” said David Cohen, president, North America, Magna Global.


While almost all of the TV media companies have been rolling out their own data platforms to transact more advertising based on metrics outside of the traditional age and gender demos, NBCUniversal is making the biggest push yet to transition brands into making targeted audience buys. Last month, the company announced it was committing $1 billion in 2017 advertising inventory to data-based, non-Nielsen transactions in this year’s upfront and scatter markets. That’s 10 percent of the $10 billion in ad revenue the company brought in last year.

“We are giving the client the best of both worlds: the premium content that is truly responsible for the success of a brand with the laser targeting that they crave,” Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, told Adweek last month.

That $1 billion will be transacted via NBCU’s Audience Studio suite of offerings, whose data set includes set top box data from Comcast (NBCU’s parent company). The dollar amount is “a significant multiple” of last year’s data-based transactions, said Mike Rosen, evp, portfolio sales and strategy, NBCUniversal, who explained that the company purposely restricted inventory as it launched its platforms. “We did not want to rush to the market before we knew it would work.”

But after three years of testing the company’s data capabilities, “now we feel the training wheels can come off, that we are ready to deploy this in a truly scalable way. That’s what the billion dollars represents: this is not test and learn anymore,” said Rosen.

NBCU’s 10-figure commitment to data-based inventory “is an aggressive target,” said Magna Global’s Cohen. “But as we always say, we need to plant the flag beyond our reach and just pull ourselves to it. So kudos to Linda for doing that.”

Here are the four components of NBCU’s Audience Studio data offerings:

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.