NBC Universal Expands Interests in Digital Media Platforms

While the industry’s eyes are on the beta launch of Hulu.com, the News Corp. and NBC Universal joint venture video platform , the peacock is also venturing to other digital platforms, namely in-game advertising and mobile.

NBC Universal made 4INFO its preferred SMS (define) and text messaging partner for ad-supported mobile messaging. In another move, NBC said it will sell dynamic in-game advertising inventory for IGA Worldwide as part of its TV 360 approach.

4INFO, mobile SMS and text message content advertising provider, becomes NBC Universal’s preferred mobile SMS advertising partner through an equity-based investment announced today. The deal includes 4INFO running ads on interactive SMS voting, fan clubs, and alerts for entertainment, news, local, sports, and cable entertainment properties.

Currently NBC’s mobile programs include both free and premium-based messaging, according to Zaw Thet, CEO and co-founder of 4INFO. “What 4INFO’s advertising solutions allow NBC to do is take all of those messages and insert ads at the bottom,” he said. “We provide and create this ad support network.”

NBC will likely continue to offer premium SMS programs, though it will look to monetize a number of mobile messaging campaigns with targeted advertisements to its opt-in SMS audience. Messages include updates connected to shows, voting polls for reality series, news updates, and alerts on sport events in real time. As part of the deal, 4INFO will supplement messaging with its own content including custom, user-defined alerts such as health tips and fantasy sports player statistics.

Both NBC and 4INFO will split sales efforts on inventory. Ad-supported messages will commence in early November and will pick up in pace towards the end of the year and throughout 2008.

In a separate announcement on Monday, NBC Universal said SinglePoint will manage and execute multiple campaigns including mobile voting, sweepstakes, contests, breaking news text alerts, and deliver personalized content across NBC properties. SinglePoint will handle programming and trafficking of campaigns while 4INFO will act as the ad network.

To further enhance NBC Universal’s media package for advertisers, the network said it will sell some of IGA Worldwide’s dynamic in-game advertising inventory. NBC Universal’s investment arm participated in IGA’s second round of funding a few months ago and the two companies explored a way to work together strategically, said IGA Worldwide CEO Justin Townsend. Access to IGA’s in-game advertising inventory gives the NBC sales team the ability to create customized, multi-channel marketing packages.

“There’s two ways we go to market,” said Nick Johnson, VP of NBC Universal digital media advertising sales. NBC either sells a cross-platform package, or individual buys specific to a show, vertical, or property.

Just as the NBC network has shows that cater to a particular vertical, so does the IGA network. “NBC will have access to a high proportion of our inventory, including any of our verticals such as the automotive vertical,” said Townsend. Additional verticals include sports and science fiction.

NBC and IGA Worldwide sales teams worked closely together to train and coordinate handing over sales to the NBC team, which Johnson calls a solutions-oriented group.

Johnson noted core competencies where IGA may take the lead in sales. “IGA already has relationships with Play and divisions of agencies already working in gaming categories,” he said. “We will work with broader buyers and make sure they are thinking about the platforms.” Play is the video game-focused unit of Denuo.

Investments in both 4INFO and IGA Worldwide were made for the network by its $250 million-strong investment fund, Peacock Equity. Since its launch in April 2007, the GE Commercial Finance and NBC-backed investing arm have provided funding for six companies. The four other companies are Adify, FireBrand, Healthline, and Trion.

Investments and assumption of inventory in mobile and in-game advertising channels demonstrates NBC Universal’s efforts to round out its advertising packages for a changing media landscape as consumers spend more time with other media.

“I think from an NBC Universal digital perspective, this continues to reinforce the vision of the market…and bring great solutions to the marketplace,” Johnson said.

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