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NBCUniversal Will Start Selling TV Advertising Programmatically This Fall

An extension of its digital offering

NBCUx for Linear TV will be rolled out just in time for this year's upfront. Getty Images

After two years of selling its digital video and display inventory programmatically, NBCUniversal is finally allowing programmatic buys on its linear networks as well.

Today, the company announced NBCUx for Linear TV, which will launch as part of this year's upfront. "It's the industry's first national programmatic TV offering at scale," Krishan Bhatia, evp of business operations and strategy, said during a conference call with reporters.

It's an extension of NBCUx, which the company launched last year as a digital programmatic offering after making its digital video and display inventory available for programmatic buying two years ago. "We've seen great success with it, and now we're extending those capabilities to linear television," said Bhatia.

He said that starting in the fall, "advertisers will be able to use data and automation to build media plans for our premium linear TV inventory across NBCUniversal's entire portfolio of cable and broadcast networks." The fall start date means the technology won't be available for advertisers to use during the Summer Olympics in August.

NBCU's data offerings, which also include ATP, its audience targeting platform, and its addressable NBCU+ Powered by Comcast platform, represent "a sea change in thinking about how we create value for our customers," said Dan Lovinger, evp, entertainment ad sales group. "Our advertiser partners have been asking for help with automating their media planning and buying in a data-informed way, and we expect that by adding premium TV inventory to our offering, we'll provide the help that they're seeking."

As part of the new offering, "select advertisers now will be enabled to include traditional TV inventory in their automated media plans via a private exchange using a combination of their own data, third-party data sources and NBCUniversal's premium television inventory," said Lovinger. NBCU will make its inventory and pricing information available to "a select set of demand-side platforms," and the company's client and agency partners can combine that information with their own data sources to build a media plan against their own data sets and target audiences.

"Then, those agencies and clients will issue a media plan that will be subject to inventory availability and pricing at the time and approval on our part," said Bhatia. While it automates only part of the linear television workflow process, he called it "a big step in terms of making that process simpler."

Lovinger said the company wasn't worried that clients using the technology could ultimately save more money than NBCUniversal would like. "We feel that we've got a complete hold on what we're doing here," he said.

NBC's announcement came a day after CBS staked out its own territory prior to the upfronts. The network released a statement touting its recent Super Bowl 50 and Grammys successes, saying they "surpassed our financial targets," along with a strong scatter market, "an excellent market indicator as we head into the upfront."

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