After a Year of Talks, NBCUniversal Joins Viacom, Turner and Fox’s OpenAP Platform

The company will license its own data capabilities

Marketers can now create audience segments and buy national inventory across the portfolios of all 4 companies. Getty Images, Turner, NBCUniversal, Open A.P., Viacom, Fox
Headshot of Jason Lynch

It took almost a year longer than the consortium had hoped, but Viacom, Turner and Fox have finally landed another publisher—the biggest one they could have hoped for—to join OpenAP: NBCUniversal.

The company is coming on board to support OpenAP, the audience targeting platform that the ad sales chiefs at Fox (Joe Marchese), Viacom (Sean Moran) and Turner (Donna Speciale) announced last March to simplify the process for agencies and—they hope—become the industry standard.

But NBCUniversal isn’t simply signing on to the existing offering; it’s bringing its in-house Audience Studio’s data capabilities to boost the platform by integrating them into OpenAP’s standardized data sets.

“We have spent the last four years developing the industry’s best tools to empower advertisers to better target their marketing campaigns to desired audiences. We’re excited to unleash the capabilities of our Audience Studio for the rest of the industry and share our underlying technology to propel the entire business forward,” said Krishan Bhatia, evp, business operations and strategy, NBCUniversal, in a statement

Marchese, Speciale and Moran welcomed NBCU in a joint statement: “OpenAP was formed with a clear mission: to bring the industry together in order to advance the experience, efficiency and effectiveness of advertising. With NBCUniversal aligning with the consortium, we are all accelerating the industry’s efforts in providing more premium scale to drive greater adoption of advanced audience targeting, while laying the groundwork for future innovation.”

As part of its new partnership, NBCU will license several Audience Studio capabilities to OpenAP: Audience Graph (an enterprise data asset with a centralized store of audience attributes to create targets), Data Sync (a cloud-based data structure that helps match clients and agency data against audience segments) and FreeWheel Shared Insights Platform (which taps Comcast’s non-personally identifiable viewing data for ad campaign planning).

With the addition of NBCU, marketers using OpenAP can now create audience segments and buy national inventory across the portfolios of all four companies, which represent 50 percent of total TV national broadcast and cable entertainment inventory.

“This is the year that OpenAP is really going to come to light.”
Donna Speciale, president, Turner Ad Sales

It took much longer than expected for the consortium to land another publisher. Last May, Speciale told Adweek she hoped to have announcements “in the next couple of weeks,” but none materialized. NBCUniversal, and other publishers, have been in talks about joining OpenAP for the past year.

Despite the delay, both Moran and Speciale told Adweek that the platform has been a success, with more than 750 registered users.

“Any audience deals that we do are now all through OpenAP. So that’s going great,” said Speciale, who lamented that overall audience targeting adoption throughout the industry hasn’t been more rapid. “I always want things happening faster than they go. I think the industry just goes a little too slow; marketers aren’t adopting it as fast as I would like.”

Both Moran and Speciale alluded to NBCU’s imminent arrival in recent interviews. “The adoption of OpenAP is really on a roll,” Moran told Adweek last week, ahead of Viacom’s upfront dinners. “The reaction in the community has been great, and we believe in the not too distant future, there’s going to be some great announcements about the evolution of OpenAP.”

With the addition of NBCUniversal and potentially other publishers, “this is the year that OpenAP is really going to come to light,” said Speciale.

Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, was notably not quoted in today’s OpenAP announcement. Last August, she told Adweek that she was open to the prospect of joining on: “NBCU is very open and supportive of an industry-wide solution. It would make all the sense in the world for such a big swath of the inventory availability in the marketplace to be part of OpenAP. We’re just considering if we can make it work in conjunction with what we have working in the market already.”

With NBCU on board, other publishers are expected to join OpenAP shortly, according to sources.

But other media companies said they are continuing to sit out for now. That includes Discovery Inc, which acquired Scripps last night and said it is focusing on its advanced targeting offering, Discovery Engage, in the upfront. “We have not yet joined Open AP, but we have something that is doing very well for our purpose,” said Jon Steinlauf, chief U.S. ad sales officer, Discovery Inc, said prior to his upfront event last week.


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