NBCUniversal’s One23 Sees Interactive TV Finally Ready For Prime Time

By Howard Homonoff, Forbes • February 10, 2023

NBCU’s One23 agenda stretched far more widely than interactive TV. In advance of One23 I spoke with Linda Yaccarino, the Chairman of NBCU Global Advertising and Partnerships; Krishan Bhatia, President and Chief Business Officer for the business; and Josh Feldman, its CMO, and asked them the age-old question: “What makes this ‘One’ event different from all other ‘One’ events?” and what came back in the conversation played out in the 4-hour adtechapalooza that followed.

Yaccarino noted on stage that “We’re here today to stand up for the ‘and’.” She was referring specifically to ending the forced “either/or” choices that have plagued the development of an integrated linear and digital TV ad platform, such as streaming or advertising, mass scale or digital data precision and privacy or customized ads. Although Yaccarino referenced these specifics, her statement was a metaphor for One23 as a whole – there was a lot of “and” on display throughout.

As Bhatia pointed out to me, One 21 was about presenting a vision of an integrated linear and digital TV future. One 22 focused on NBCU’s initial steps with brand and tech partners necessary to executing on the vision. And One23 was about the promise of delivery – here’s what we are actually doing, and what it will mean. Or, as Yaccarino told me, “a real merger of Big Media and Big Tech.” The day included a gathering of representatives of the Joint Industry Committee (JIC), including ad agencies and execs from NBCU competitors ParamountPARA +2.2% and Televisa Univision, to push forward a new common video ad currency. One23 introduced Peacock Ad Manager, a digital-like self-service platform, a la Facebook and GoogleGOOG +1.5%, to permit easier purchase of TV-adjacent ads by small businesses. And it even encompassed GM’s Deborah Wahl educating all of us on the promise of next gen electronic vehicles.

Even in this sea of change, a real interactive TV business might be the holiest – or at least the longest gestating – grail of all. As early as the 1990s, I negotiated deals – for NBC in fact – with long-forgotten tech companies to bring interactive capabilities to cable TV viewers, none of which led to anyone’s golden parachute (although one exec did go onto a prominent Google career). Fits and starts in this field have been common ever since.

As Feldman explained to me and on stage, it wasn’t that the idea wasn’t a good one – people love live content, they love buying things, and they want it to be as easy as possible. Everyone knows about the “allure” of buying Rachel’s sweater live while watching Friends, even if no one actually did it. For Feldman and NBCU, it wasn’t the vision that didn’t make sense – the tech was just never ready. But NBCU is banking that, in the words of many a football coach, “the future is now.”

If NBCU has a NorthStar on interactive TV and the live shopping experience, it’s the powerful track record for it in Asia. EMarketer reported that the livestream shopping market topped $300 billion in China in 2021, and is estimated to be over $500 billion by the end of this year. The total U.S. TV ad industry has revenues in the range of $70 billion (where it’s been stuck for some time). For a business that under any scenario will be struggling to maintain – never mind grow – audience ratings and ad dollars, interactive and livestreaming commerce is a potentially huge pot of gold that offers real opportunity somewhere over the tech rainbow.

On a practical level, the NBCU gameplan for interactive, live streamed commerce begins with that it calls “Must ShopTV” (ah, memories of Thursday night ratings domination). NBCU is partnering with KERV Interactive to make live shopping possible for Peacock users. As KERV’s Chief Revenue Officer Jay Wolff pointed out, in a test with NBCU KERV identified on just one episode of Real Housewives over 17,000 separate items that could be sold. That a lot of glitz and maybe a lot of sales if it works.

NBCU is also looking to piggyback on the exploding retail media network business, where advertisers are increasingly taking advantage of the online real estate controlled. NBCU’s “Retail Media Extension Network” seeks to facilitate these types of platforms for smaller businesses and link them to NBCU’s programming capabilities as well. NBCU has previously developed its own NBC Checkout tech platform, and announced its first licensing deal outside of NBCU, with The Daily Mail leveraging it for onsite ecommerce.

Will the package of interactive live commerce initiatives add up to a big business for NBCU and its partners? If so, how quickly? And what is needed now for that to happen? For all of that, I’m afraid we’ll have to wait for One24.

Read the original Forbes article here.

Seen also in: AdAge, Women’s Wear Daily , Fierce Video & Next TV

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