NBCUniversal Will Expand Its Lucrative New Prime Pod Format and CFlight Ad Metric Next Year

Linda Yaccarino also plans another industry summit in 2019

Two big advertising initiatives that Linda Yaccarino discussed at NBCU's May upfront will be expanding in 2019. Virginia Sherwood/NBCUniversal
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Two of NBCUniversal’s biggest new advertising offerings this year—its “prime pod” premium ad format and the CFlight unified advertising metric—will both expand in 2019.

Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, made the announcement today in a staff memo as she looked ahead to next year and vowed, “it’s time to set a new standard.”

Also part of Yaccarino’s 2019’s to-do list: a second industry summit, following up on the one she held a year ago to help “fix … the ad-supported ecosystem.”

In the memo, Yaccarino reflected on the ad sales team’s 2018 accomplishments, including the launch of “prime pods,” the CFlight metric and joining—as well as licensing its data technology to—audience targeting platform OpenAP.

“We know people want better viewing experiences and marketers want growth. It’s up to us to deliver both,” said Yaccarino. “We need to liberate ourselves from legacy processes and move towards a system that accurately reflects consumer behavior, and client needs.”

To that end, Yaccarino said that NBCUniversal will expand prime pods across its portfolio, and will make ad placement “smarter, more targeted and more relevant.”

In February, NBCUniversal unveiled plans for its lucrative prime pod format—a 60-second pod of audience-targeted advertising in the first or last breaks of all prime-time original series across its entire broadcast and cable portfolio—as part of its larger initiative to reduce ads by 10 percent this fall on those same 50-plus NBCU original shows.

The offering, which the company says increases brand lift and purchase intent by placing those ads in a less-cluttered environment, prompted some sticker shock during NBCUniversal’s prolonged upfront talks. But NBCU ultimately sold the format at a 75 percent premium above the average cost of an ad in each show, according to a source close to negotiations.

Now, the company will scale the offering across the full portfolio, with its research team helping to determine the best placements.

Also getting an upgrade next year will be the company’s CFlight unified advertising metric, which measures live, on-demand and time-shifted commercial impressions of episodes on every platform.

Most of NBCU’s entertainment and sports programming was transacted in the upfront on CFlight. But Yaccarino intends to transact all inventory on CFlight in next year’s upfront.

“For too long, we’ve been tied to traditional metrics. Marketers deserve to base their decisions on business results, but ratings don’t even come close,” said Yaccarino. “At NBCUniversal, we’re going to lessen our reliance on legacy measurement. Instead, we’ll continue to invest in measurement that focuses on audiences and business outcomes, including scaling CFlight across our entire portfolio.”

The company will also “double” its technology investments in the next year “to enhance our ongoing automation and optimization efforts,” said Yaccarino.

However, she added, “These massive transformations are only possible if we work smarter and more collaboratively, as a company and an industry.”

eYaccarino  is planning another industry summit in the first half of 2019, which she said will “accelerate progress, encourage partnership, inspire consensus, and hold ourselves and others accountable.”

It was also exactly one year ago that Yaccarino brought together the industry’s biggest ad sales execs, buyers, agency heads, CEOs and digital/technology chiefs. At that event, she said that the execs in attendance need to “come together and build the metrics that our industry needs,” and create a “fair, equal and transparent market that holds all platforms to the same collective standard.”

While Yaccarino had hoped the summit would provide “a meaningful plan for action and follow,” the four panels that followed her remarks were ultimately a disappointment to many execs in the room, as they didn’t yield much in the way of specifics or guidance for how the attendees could band together to create such a plan.

But with her company’s new innovations, Yaccarino should be able to offer her peers more of a roadmap this time around.

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