NBCU is pitching advertisers a cross-platform approach to the 2020 Olympics

The Today Show featured Olympics coverage as NBCU puts on a marketing blitz a year out from the Games

Exactly one year out from next year’s Tokyo Olympics, NBC Universal (NBCU) is telling advertisers to worry less about primetime placement and more about reaching viewers wherever they are.

Since 2011, NBCU has paid over $12bn to be America's exclusive home of the Olympics through 2032. To recoup this investment, the network is fine-tuning its measurement tool Total Audience Delivery (TAD).

TAD measures viewership across broadcast, cable, digital and social with the goal of delivering advertisers a single viewer. NBCU debuted the metric for the 2016 Summer Olympics and started guaranteeing campaigns on its people-based currency – rather than on a household guarantee – for the 2018 winter games.

NBCU earned a record $1.2bn in ad revenue during the last summer games in Rio de Janeiro. Dan Lovinger, executive vice-president of ad sales at NBC Sports Group, said the network is on pace to surpass that mark come 2020, but that will require some “flexibility from the advertisers so that they permit us to follow the viewers” and not focus on traditional ratings.

Essentially, Lovinger is imploring advertisers to let NBCU move their campaign materials across platforms. For example, NBCU wouldn't move an ad buy during the Opening Ceremony, but the network would encourage marketers to place complementary assets across the network's platforms as most advertisers buy in bulk.

“While most people would think we program to deliver the highest rating in broadcast primetime every night on the mothership NBC, what we’re really interested in most is delivering the most compelling content to our viewers,” said Lovinger during a press call.

“It’s less relevant what that household primetime broadcast rating is. Really what’s most relevant is how we are delivering the best possible viewing experience to as many people as possible.”

NBCU has long said it's not in the business of grading its own homework when it comes to TV measurement. The network is apart of the OpenAP advanced TV consortium and has developed its own measurement metric CFlight.

Lovinger said that like CFlight, TAD allows NBCU to toggle between linear and digital to deliver campaign guarantees, but TAD also allows the network to simultaneously aggregate audience data of Olympic content across platforms within any daypart.

"For example, if an advertiser buys a spot on NBC in primetime, they are also buying a spot on NBCSN or other networks airing Olympic content at that time," Lovinger told The Drum.

Lovinger added that he doesn’t expect to see a “material change” in the amount of inventory compared to the last two Games. He wouldn’t address CPM pricing, but said that price increases “are in line with our goals and expectations”.

NBCU's ad suite also includes Adsmart, the network's advanced TV, addressable advertising product. TAD's people-based guarantee is not an addressable offering.

"We don’t anticipate using Adsmart, which is primarily about aggregating and delivering specific types of audiences regardless of the environment. The Olympics are still primarily a vehicle for advertisers seeking to reach a very specific environment," said Lovinger.

TAD will cover that "specific environment" of over 7,000 hours of content across digital, social and seven linear channels within NBCU’s portfolio, including the Olympics Channel which Lovinger said will have live events for the first time.

NBCU is planning to debut its OTT service ahead of next year’s Olympic Games, but Lovinger said the company hasn’t made any decisions yet on whether the ad-supported streaming platform will have Olympics content. He hinted that there will be “more news on that in the not-so-distant future”.

Lovinger did say that advertisers could buy outside of the traditional broadcast schedule – like buying only on digital – especially as an increasing amount budget-conscious DTC marketers look to enter TV.

NBCU is also working to make TAD more granular, adding the ability to buy age-gender demographics.

“We’re trying to democratize access to the Games so that those who maybe haven’t bought in the past, because they absolutely had to have a demo guarantee, can [now buy],” said Lovinger.

While NBCU can sell audiences, it doesn’t sell specific sports because the network wants to have “flexibility to bring the biggest moments of the Games to our viewers and advertisers,” according to Lovinger.

To translate, teams get eliminated and schedules are unpredictable, so it would be too challenging to sell by sport.

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