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NBCU transacts 40% of upfront deals on measures beyond age, gender

NBCUniversal Media LLC said many of its upfront transactions for the 2022-23 TV season fell outside of traditional measurement metrics.

About 40% of the company's upfront deals relied on measures extending beyond age and gender guarantees, said Laura Molen, president of advertising sales and partnerships at NBCU. The use of more targeted categories comes as NBCU experimented with alternative data providers following its dissatisfaction with longtime TV measurement provider Nielsen Holdings PLC.

NBCU used its own AdSmart audience-based system and a cross-publisher consortium including OpenAP, iSpot.tv Inc. and Nielsen Holdings PLC to guide its 2022-23 upfront transactions. During the upfront, content providers look to sell linear and digital schedules to media buyers and their agencies ahead of the upcoming TV season.

This year, NBCU pushed for upfront deals based on iSpot.tv data. The media company is nearing the conclusion of its upfront sales process, registering pricing gains in the high single digits, NBCU CEO Jeff Shell said at a June industry conference.

Streaming benefits

Ahead of the upfront ad-selling season, NBCU tested iSpot data on campaigns involving 67 advertisers across 158 brands. The tests compared reach and frequency measurements against linear and over-the-top buys across the NBCU One Platform ad tech solutions suite. It included campaigns that ran during Super Bowl LVI and the Winter Olympics, plus first-quarter ads sold close to a program's air date.

The vast majority of impressions during the tested campaigns came from linear inventory (91%), while the rest covered streaming.

"The potential of streaming has yet to be realized," said Kelly Abcarian, executive vice president of measurement and impact at NBCU. "What we found is there's a lot of excess frequency in linear that can be truly smoothed out when more media weight is moved to OTT."

Part of the hesitancy regarding OTT or streaming has to do with a lack of unified linear and OTT measurement, leaving marketers with less confidence in the format, Abcarian said.

But streaming provides a platform to reach some viewers that marketers would not get otherwise. According to NBCU, 64% of the impressions delivered by its Peacock OTT service connected with streaming-only viewers.

Alternate advances

Other major programmers are also retaining alternate measurement companies to provide a more comprehensive gauge of the evolving, multiplatform media landscape. Streaming viewership accounted for a record-high 31.9% of total TV consumption in May, according to The Gauge, Nielsen's monthly snapshot of total viewing.

TV measurement provider Nielsen has come under fire for underreporting viewership during the pandemic and losing accreditation with Media Rating Council, an industry organization whose membership includes most major media companies. Despite the turmoil, most 2022-23 upfront deals are expected to transpire via Nielsen data.

Nielsen is in the process of client testing its cross-platform measurement system, Nielsen One, which is slated to become Nielsen's new standard in 2024. Walt Disney is among the companies testing the first iteration of Nielsen One with MAGNA and Publicis Groupe SA. Disney has also expanded its contract with Samba TV Inc. for reach and frequency data and is testing Comscore Inc. linear and digital measurement with Omnicom Group Inc.

Paramount Global has partnered with Nielsen competitors VideoAmp Inc. and Dentsu Group Inc. on data trials.

Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. is working with iSpot TV, VideoAmp and Comscore. The programmer's Chief U.S. Ad Sales Officer Jon Steinlauf said during a May 18 upfront presentation that the company is looking to develop a multiple currency ad marketplace that "will benefit all of us." In more recent comments at a June industry conference, Steinlauf said by next year's upfront season, companies will benefit from a much broader data sample than what Nielsen provided previously.

How that impacts industry dynamics, market shares and cost-per-thousand pricing is still to be determined, the executive said.