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In 2017, the NBCU's "Audience Studio," the group that manages its advertising data platform, had over 500 clients buy ads based off of audience data — not Nielsen ratings — a 50% increase year over year, Axios has learned.

The company has sold roughly $1 billion of data-based ads over the past year, and plans to meet the same goal over the next year.

Expand chart
Adapted from eMarketer; Chart: Axios Visuals

Now, the whole industry is catching on:

  • AMC announced last week its building a data-driven ad sales operation called "AMCN Agility" to better compete with networks like NBC and Fox.
  • Fox, Turner and Viacom last year created "Open AP," a consortium of audience-based ad targeting that leverages data across the three networks. The company says that 800 media agency accounts have been created so far.
  • Audience-based advertising has been a central argument made by AT&T throughout its merger trial with the DOJ.

Why it matters: The rise of streaming and multi-device content consumption has forced marketers to think differently about the most effective way to reach their audiences, and that often means using audience data, not traditional TV ratings, as a currency for television ad buying.

NBCU has taken the lead in pushing advertisers to think differently about ways they can more effectively target their audiences through data, not just blanket ratings.

  • At the helm of this push is its chief executive, Linda Yaccarino, who hosts industry-wide forums to discuss changes in audience measurement and ad sales. Under her leadership, along with executives Mike Rosen and Denise Colella, NBCU has grown its Audience Studio product and sales team by 50% in the past year. 
  • How it works: NBCU and Audience Studio allows advertisers to use first party customer data as not only the audience segmentation basis for TV buying decisions, but also the guaranteed delivery of those buys. It will approve data/tech platforms to purchase the entire NBCU national linear TV portfolio in a self-service manner through a new partnership with Adobe Advertising Cloud, similar to what marketers can do on Google or Facebook.

But, but, but: Audience-based ad buying, while growing, it still a very small portion of overall TV ad-buying — accounting for only 10%, roughly, of total TV advertising. And Nielsen, which often gets a bad rap for being "behind the times" is involved in the technology that's powering some of these networks' efforts, like Open AP.

  • The company has been exploring audience-based buying partnerships since 2013. It announced last week a data and technology agreement with IPG Mediabrands, the media management and data arm of Interpublic Group, that will enhance the company’s audience discovery, activation and measurement abilities for advertisers.
  • It also launched an Advanced Audience Forecasting tool that will provide clients with forecasts of TV audiences defined by advanced audience segments.

Note: NBC is an investor in Axios and Andy Lack is a member of the Axios board.

Go deeper

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Judge temporarily blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest setback in the Biden administration's rollout of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Federal judges in two states temporarily barred the administration from enforcing mandates for millions of workers last week.

Biden threatens Putin

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a video call that lasted for just over two hours on Tuesday, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. will impose unprecedented sanctions and provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Why it matters: Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine has triggered alarms from the U.S. and its European allies of a potential large-scale Russian invasion in early 2022. Sullivan said Biden made clear to Putin that, "things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now."