NBC Universal is getting into the ad network business, first selling inventory across a handful of its own properties, then possibly expanding into others.
The network, called Universal Audience Platform, launched today with 21 NBCU properties, including Bravotv.com, NBC.com, Oxygen.com and Syfy.com. While advertisers have previously had the ability to buy packages that spanned NBCU properties, this is the first time they can buy display inventory based on audience segment rather than brand.
Asked why NBCU had chosen now to launch an ad network, Peter Naylor, VP of digital sales, said the company "has the impressions and uniques" to form "a credible entrance to the market." But that doesn't mean it will limit itself to NBCU properties.
"This is phase one," he said. "Phase two is going to be when we welcome in some other sites we don't wholly own and operate."
Just when - or if - that will come to pass isn't yet clear, said Naylor. But he did confirm that discussions were under way to find other suitable properties to add to the network.
For now, the formation of UAP means that NBCU will be "dialing down" its dependence on third-party ad networks, said Naylor. The company has made deals with BlueKai, Nielsen and Quantcast to supply the demographic data that it will use to sell audience segments to advertisers.
Not all NBCU websites are part of the network as of yet. MSNBC.com, CNBC.com and Weather.com may join at a later time, Naylor said, but for now would continue selling display inventory independently.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014