What NBCU’s Peacock Is Pitching As It Opens Up To More Advertisers

Peacock’s exclusive launch window for advertisers will end this fall, as it opens up a portion of its inventory to a wider group of brands starting in Q4.

The NBCUniversal-owned streaming service launched on July 15 with 10 advertisers, including Target, Unilever and Verizon, who received category exclusivity and the ability to test new ad formats.

“We’re giving our sponsors first-mover advantage,” said Laura Molen, president of ad sales and partnerships at NBCUniversal, in an email, “and offering them a seat at the table next to our engineers, creators and executives.”

Limiting the launch was a smart move at first, because tightening the group of advertisers lowers the risk of under delivering, said Mike Fisher, VP of advanced TV and audio at Essence.

“When you launch, you don’t know what your viewership is going to be,” he said.

But with the exclusive launch window ending this fall, Peacock isn’t wasting any time making its case to the broader market. Here’s how the streaming service is trying to stand out in a crowded field.

Content is king … but there’s more than one king

Streaming services always pitch their lineup front and center, said Natalee Geldert, director of brand media at indie agency PMG.

Content drives audiences, so advertisers want to see a strong lineup. Oftentimes, that requires exclusive rights to popular content or originals.

Peacock has a strong back catalogue of movies from Universal Pictures, as well as NBCU’s TV shows, Peacock originals, live programming and short-form clips, Molen said. That strong stable of content led the service to rake in 10 million sign-ups as of July.

But production for many of Peacock’s originals was put on hold this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To fill that void, the streaming service is making a big bet around being the exclusive place to access NBCU’s late night content, such as “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” which can produce new episodes remotely.

“That will drive that person who wants to watch this content, but doesn’t want to stay up until 11:30 pm,” Essence’s Fisher said.

Peacock also has an advantage because it produces its own content; buyers prefer to buy directly from content providers over aggregators. While networks such as Roku offer great targeting and performance, they lack transparency on where ads are actually running.

“We go directly to the publishers for most everything we do,” said Brad Geving, VP of media at CTV performance agency Tatari. “We are willing to buy through aggregators to the extent that pricing is good, but the majority of what we buy is straight from content providers.”

But when HBO Max starts selling ads next year, Peacock won’t be the only game in town with a strong back catalogue of classic movies and TV shows that brands can buy directly.

So NBCU will have to differentiate its ad offering beyond content, Geldert said.

Innovative ad products and measurement

Peacock is focused on creating a better viewing experience than linear TV. The service offers the industry’s lowest ad loads of five minutes per hour and two ads per pod, as well as frequency management tools and 10 new ad units including shoppable, interactive and less-interruptive ad units.

“We're giving consumers the free service they want and advertisers the reach and scale they desperately need,” NBCU’s Molen said.

These innovative ad units tend to be geared toward brand advertisers, and because they’re generally customized, they come with the associated price tag, Geldert said. (After all, Peacock has to make up for that low ad load somehow.) For new ad units, Peacock is offering brand lift measurement across different ad formats with in-flight reporting.

“They want it to feel organic in the viewer experience,” Geldert said, “and that’s why we see larger price tags.”

But not all advertisers want to pay a premium for custom units, particularly performance brands looking to drive outcomes. Peacock has so far been “very open” with the type of granular measurement required to do performance attribution, passing back anonymized device IDs and impression-level information such as region or time of day, Geving said.

“Peacock is very friendly to performance measurement,” he said, “as opposed to other walled garden-like providers that don't allow for the proper data pass back.”

Regardless of which ad units they buy, NBCU is encouraging advertisers to access inventory from across its entire portfolio in a single buy through One Platform. Peacock will become available within One Platform once the exclusive launch period ends, and deal structures will vary based on client business objectives, Molen said.

“Our ultimate goal is to take what a client has allocated to NBCU with a unified deal and rate,” Fisher said. “I think there’s fire in that direction.”

So far, Peacock checks all of the major boxes for buyers: exclusive content, a growing audience and both brand and performance use cases. But it remains to be seen how the service is received by users and brands as the streaming wars rage on.

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