Interview: Krishan Bhatia, NBCUniversal

Interview originally published on IBC.org

Comcast-owned NBCUniversal and Sky want to allow advertisers to plan, transact and measure campaigns in a much more accurate way across their linear and digital services with One Platform. IBC365 finds out more about the offer.

Broadcasters have long sought to improve the way they sell advertising so they can better compete with digital media giants. 

Digital media firms such as Facebook and Google have, of course, won an increasing share of advertising revenues from TV thanks to the way they let marketeers effectively target specific audiences for their products.  

Addressable television advertising, in particular, is helping broadcasters fight back by letting them target viewers better.  

One of the media companies leading the charge to improve their addressable ad offer to marketeers is Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.  

At the start of the year, NBCUniversal unveiled One Platform which combines existing and new tools for advertisers to plan, target, transact and measure campaigns across all its linear and digital platforms. The global offer is being rolled out across both Comcast-owned NBCUniversal and Sky content, which together reach an audience of half a billion viewers every month in more than 160 countries. 

Krishan Bhatia, executive vice president of business operations and strategy for NBCUniversal, describes One Platform as “a major step towards transforming the television business, which is in significant need of increased innovation.” 

This has become even more pressing as viewers have adopted enthusiastically embraced streaming platforms, including NBCUniversal’s Peacock service which launched last month. 

One Platform includes access to Sky’s Adsmart suite of advertising products, which help advertisers target and optimise specific audiences.  

AdSmart now includes two new capabilities for Neilsen demographic-based buys: national TV campaigns optimised to reach a single demo across the company’s linear portfolio, and cross platform campaigns optimised for unduplicated reach across the company’s linear, digital and OTT footprint. The new cross platform optimiser makes use of technology and data science from ad tech partner 4C Insights. 

For planning and delivery of campaigns, NBCUniversal is working with ad tech companies Operative as well as Comcast-owned FreeWheel. 

Also housed under the One Platform offer is NBCUniversal’s highly regarded measurement system C-Flight, which aggregates the total impressions that a campaign generates across its platforms, including TV and digital. C-Flight has taken a lead in recent years in helping advertisers to assess marketing campaigns as TV becomes more fragmented and traditional measurement systems have struggled to keep up. NBCUniversal says will be expanding C-Flight to include OTT co-viewing, out of home measurement as well as short form video. 

OTT shift 
Bhatia notes that the shift in viewing towards OTT and streaming platforms has made it much more complex for marketeers and agencies to reach audiences at scale. “For years, we’ve been on a journey to simplify the process, and also to make the transaction and measurement and accountability of premium video more intelligent.”  

One Platform, he explains is “the culmination of all those initiatives into a singular platform that allows you as a marketeer or as an agency to plan, transact and then measure your entire campaign across all our consumer endpoints.” These straddle TV, digital and mobile platforms, as well as “content verticals” such as sports, news, entertainment, lifestyle to Hispanic programming. 

Faced with such a fragmented, complex media market, the need for simplification, automation and efficiency is greater than ever, says Bhatia. He likens One Platform to NBCUniversal’s recently launched Peacock streaming service. “What Peacock is to consumers, we want One Platform to be to marketeers, which is basically the best of everything under the NBCUniversal and Sky umbrella in the most easy-to-use and delightful fashion.” 

With AdSmart and C-Flight as key early components of One Platform, the service is available now but will be built out over the next three years so that is “a much more streamlined, simplified offer,” according to Bhatia. “That’s what innovative companies tend to do. There’s no final product you ship…we will continually strive to evolve, improve and adapt One Platform.” 

Creating a simplified platform, however, is complex to execute. A dedicated advertising technology engineering team as well as an advertising product management team are working on delivering One Platform. Bhatia says that NBCUniversal is investing “significant capital and operating expense” in building out One Platform with internal teams, as well as partnering with third party companies, such as Operative and Mediaocean on areas such as automation. 

For example, the optimisation engine for AdSmart’s core linear offering is something that NBCUniversal has built internally, and which it used to rent from a third party technology company. “We will continue to invest in those parts of the technology stack that we believe are both strategic and proprietary,” says Bhatia. “At the same time, we’ll partner with companies for components where we believe they have best of breed technology that can help accelerate our efforts. We have an open invitation to any and all advertising technology companies and service companies to help us on that journey.” 

For now, NBCUniversal’s primary focus for One Platform is the US marketplace. “We’re in active discussions right now with marketers, particularly in the US upfront marketplace right now, to plan and structure their campaigns around One Platform going into next year,” says Bhatia. 

Persuading the advertising industry to change the way that it has historically planned and bought TV is, of course, no easy task.  

“While we have very strong ambitions to continue to grow converged planning and transaction, it’s taken longer than we wanted to. It continues to rely on a lot of different industry constituents to shed the way they have done things in the past, and as in any industry that’s usually what holds progress back,” says Bhatia. “We want to eliminate the reasons for why you can’t do something by offering capabilities and technology that actually allow you to do it.” 

Sponsors
  • AJA Video Systems
  • ARRI
  • Canon
  • LiveU
  • Marshall
  • ZEISS
  • Blackmagic Design