NBCUniversal’s Total Audience Delivery Metric Makes Its Olympics Advertiser Guarantee Debut

TAD measures linear, digital and out-of-home viewing for the Winter Games

Total Audience Delivery combines a telecast's out-of home, digital and linear viewing numbers. Sources: Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

During the next two weeks, big names like Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, Nathan Chen and Chloe Kim will dominate NBC’s Olympics coverage. But the Games’ advertisers will be focused on a different moniker: TAD.

That’s short for Total Audience Delivery, the metric that NBCUniversal is now using in its ratings guarantees to Olympics advertisers. TAD rolls up a telecast’s linear, digital and out-of-home total viewer numbers, factoring in viewership on broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming on mobile phones, tablets, connected TVs and desktop computers. (While each night’s TAD number will be available the following afternoon, the out-of-home portion of the metric won’t be added in until two to three days later).

NBC Sports made the decision to switch its Olympics ratings guarantee from households to TAD last March. The move came after the linear audience for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio fell 21 percent from London in 2012, while the household rating dropped from 17 percent to 14.5, as some viewers gravitated to digital platforms that weren’t counted in the company’s high-teens household guarantees to advertisers.

“Rio was a wake-up call for everybody,” Dan Lovinger, evp of advertising sales, NBC Sports Group, said last month. “It forced us all, after the games, to really think about how the Olympics are being consumed.”

For starters, connected TV devices, which weren’t part of the Sochi measurement two years earlier, “made up 30 percent of all digital minutage consumed in the Rio games,” said Lovinger. Nielsen is counting it differently, but “it’s the same viewing experience, so why shouldn’t we be aggregating that audience, and monetizing it in the same fashion?”

That led to the creation of TAD, which gave the team “the ability to work with advertisers over the course of these 18 nights and days and make sure we deliver them. It is really just a common denominator demo. It works in digital. It works in linear. Households doesn’t work in digital,” said Lovinger. “We wanted to be able to move on a dime between linear and digital if we saw spikes in one type of viewing or the other.”

Lovinger and his team floated the TAD metric at a November 2016 Olympics advertisers summit; attending brands were immediately on board with the change. “We have to test and learn as an industry together,” said executive Saatchi & Saatchi communications director John Lisko, who oversaw Toyota’s Super Bowl and Olympics buy. Lisko, who was at the summit, added that as viewing habits radically shift, “we can’t not do anything; we have to find ways to work together.”

However, Lovinger said that when NBCUniversal went public with the change last year, there was a “dubiousness” among some advertisers, as “our industry is full of people that are concerned with precedence.”

NBC Sports Group put together a TAD primer video, featuring Joe Brown, svp, research:

The company isn’t revealing its TAD guarantee to advertisers, but Lovinger said if the TAD ratings for Pyeongchang are on par with Sochi’s linear audience—where NBC averaged 21.4 million primetime viewers—most advertiser guarantees will be met. Last month, NBC Broadcasting and Sports chairman Mark Lazarus predicted the Winter Olympics audience across all platforms will be higher overall than Sochi’s, but the linear numbers will be “somewhat less” than during the 2014 Games.

Even those advertisers who were initially wary about TAD came around. Yesterday, Lovinger announced that NBC Sports surpassed $900 million in national ad sales for Pyeongchang, setting a Winter Games record.

“Advertisers continue to support the Olympics because they recognize the unparalleled value and reach it provides over 18 days and nights,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to adding to this milestone as the drama of the Games unfolds over the next few weeks.”

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