NBCUniversal unveiled plans for a new advertising venture with its Comcast sibling Sky, a “creativity summit” over the summer and other initiatives during a “state of the marketplace conversation” on Monday.
The online event was held on the day the company had planned to host its annual upfront presentation at Radio City Music Hall.
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While the videoconference lacked Radio City razzle-dazzle, it began with a brief introduction by Kelly Clarkson, host of an NBCU syndicated talk show, from her home in Montana. It also featured an appearance by This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia and the premiere of a trailer for Mr. Mayor, a forthcoming NBC sitcom starring Ted Danson and Holly Hunter that was created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.
NBCU’s Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and partnerships, led off the presentation with a direct address to agencies, brands and other stakeholders in the $70 billion TV ad business. Citing comments by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts during the company’s recent earnings call with Wall Street analysts, she said, “We must continue to innovate at a time when your customers need us most. That’s what our entire industry needs to do. We have to come together and actually market our way out of this crisis. It’s our responsibility to create demand.”
The new effort with Sky will see advertising and partnership opportunities across NBCU and Sky become available for purchase through NBCUniversal’s One Platform. The tie-up will give a broader swath of marketers access to Sky news and entertainment programming, including shows like Game of Thrones. Announced at CES last January, One Platform brings together the many outlets under the NBCU roof — from linear networks to digital to streaming — in a single package for advertisers.
The leaders of this new Sky-NBCU division will be announced in the coming weeks, NBCU said. They will report into Yaccarino as well as partner closely with Sky Chief Business Officer Patrick Béhar.
Comcast acquired Sky in a $40 billion deal last year.
Details were not disclosed about the full scope of the “creativity summit” planned for this summer. Josh Feldman, EVP of marketing and advertising creative at NBCU, said it will address “the important role creativity plays” in the TV ecosystem and will involve select programming announcements.
Laura Molen, president of ad sales and partnerships, briefly described the company’s efforts to respond to COVID-19. Two minutes of ad time each hour have been reclaimed for programming during news blocks, she said, given the importance of news. Two minutes of entertainment programming time have also been returned, with promotion and longer show times the result.
“When everything is so uncertain, it’s nice to have a stable schedule,” she said.
The 30-minute presentation by executives was followed by a 25-minute Q&A period with questions coming from Wall Street analysts, press and media buyers.
Asked to describe the shape of advertising in the coming months across NBCU’s platforms, Molen said the company is continuing to test new formats and devise new innovation. One example of that is Peacock, the streaming service which launched in April and will roll out nationally in July with the bulk of its offering supported by 5 minutes of advertising per hour. Although Peacock will be part of One Platform but it will not accept ads for rival streaming services like HBO Max or Disney+. The ban follows a decision by Disney last fall to turn away ads from Netflix, indicating the intensity of the competition in direct-to-consumer streaming.
Mark Marshall, president of ad sales and client partnerships, said the boom in overall viewing during COVID-19 has brought a mix of challenge and opportunity.
“It has changed the way we look at programming and scheduling,” Marshall said. “If you had asked me what our contingency plans were three months ago, I probably would have given you an answer like ‘NBC has been around for a hundred years. We have a great library of content that will support anything we need.’ But this innovation you’ve seen over this period of time is really inspiring.”
Late-night shows like Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show have illustrated the silver lining of the pandemic, Marshall continued. Fallon proposed producing short segments from his home, intending them as either promotions or introductory bits. “Within one week, it actually became his entire show,” Marshall said. As a result, “you kind of feel like you know Jimmy Fallon in a completely different way. You feel like, ‘Maybe Jimmy and Nancy will invite us over for a barbecue when we get through all of this together.'”
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