NBCU Wants To Learn From Sky: The US Is Behind On Addressable TV

NBC Universal and Sky, both owned by Comcast, announced this week that they’re combining inventory and targeting tools. The hope is to help global advertisers expand their reach to international markets across TV and digital.

Audience Studio, NBCU’s data-driven media offering, is merging with Sky’s ad tech offering, AdSmart. The combined entity will be called AdSmart by NBC Universal in the US and AdSmart by Sky in the UK.

Comcast plunked down $39 billion late last year to acquire Sky, which not only has the largest pay TV footprint in the UK, but is also making inroads into Italy and Germany. It didn’t take long – just five months – for NBCU and Sky to start taking advantage of their synergies.

Their respective technologies are “complementary,” said Krishan Bhatia, EVP of business operations and strategy for NBCU’s ad sales division.

“Post-acquisition, we’ve been working together to figure out how to partner, collaborate and learn from each other, so we can serve agencies and marketers around the world in a more cohesive way,” he said. “Advanced advertising isn’t the only area where we’ve found alignment, but it’s one of the major ones.”

AdExchanger spoke with Bhatia about what the AdSmart news means for NBCU and for TV buyers.

AdExchanger: What exactly can NBCU do with AdSmart that it couldn’t do before?

KRISHAN BHATIA: Sky can marry set-top box data from Sky boxes with the reach and scale of media networks, including non-owned-and-operated ones that it performs ad sales services for. With that, Sky is able to create very targeted advertising for both national and local marketers.

On the NBCU side, we’ve invested heavily in tools that allow marketers to build media plans against targeted audiences, across the NBCU portfolio. With our tools, plans have a more optimal mix, even if the ads aren’t served in an addressable manner.

We’re availing our capabilities on the optimization front to Sky, and we’re learning from their addressable capabilities in Europe. For now, it’s about creating the best of both worlds in a more uniform offering that we can take to market to show the value of advertising in an addressable fashion.

Will your ad stack be integrated with Sky’s ad stack, or will you each take advantage of the other’s stuff, but keep it separate on the backend?

It will be both: core uniform technology and adaptations to each ad stack.

For most of the capabilities that are heavily integrated into our core system – sales management, traffic management, data platform management – we have our version and Sky has theirs. Over time, as we make something like our linear optimization available to Sky, for example, it will need to be customized for their system.

The teams have been working together for a couple of months now, and there is much work to be done, but the goal is to have a full suite of services up and running on a phased timeline. The first thing we’re doing is aligning the external-facing brand so that when we talk to clients in the US, the UK or any European market, we’re demonstrating the same value proposition.

How are buyers reacting?

This started with conversations we had with clients and agencies at CES. A lot of the partnership conversations went something like this: ‘We love working with you in the US and we do a lot of great work with Sky in the European market, but when can we conduct business more holistically?’”

How does combining ad products with Sky impact the work NBCU has been doing to build its own ad platform?

Up until this point, we had our own road map and we executed against it to launch different products and capabilities. We intend to continue to evolve and to build, and the same is true for Sky. What we’re doing on the addressable advertising front is thinking about how we can start to align toward a best-of-breed suite of tools and have more uniformity over time, rather than one road map trumping another.

Will you be scrapping anything? Are there redundancies in the offering?

We haven’t gotten to the point where we have to scrap anything, but if a better mousetrap exists that makes something we’ve developed obsolete or outdated, we don’t fear that.

What’s your vision for the future?

Sky has the benefit of operating a distribution platform with set-top boxes alongside a set of media networks that provide ad services. But in the US, you have a much more fragmented landscape with respect to enabling addressable. There are more distributors, more programmers and more fragmented ways for inventory in television to come to market. As a result, creating a scalable, addressable marketplace is taking much longer here, to the frustration of almost every participant.

What Sky demonstrates is that when you reach a certain level of scale, the business starts to proliferate and provide value for marketers and media companies alike.

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