NBCUniversal launches an identity platform

NBCU
NBCUniversal headquarters. (Credit: Getty Images)

The solution will power personalized advertising across the media giant’s properties.

As TV consumption shifts to streaming, networks are diligently working on solutions to make their media assets easier to buy, target and measure across channels, screens and platforms. 

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday, NBCUniversal unveiled its next step in that strategy: NBCUnified, an identity platform that will help advertisers reach custom audiences across its various properties. 

As the underlying capability powering NBCU’s One Platform initiative, NBCUnified allows advertisers to create a custom audience, match it against the media giant’s first-party data, deploy campaigns and measure results across media properties, screens and channels. 

“NBCUnified is the identity and data spine that sits across the whole NBCU enterprise,” said John Lee, chief data officer, NBCUniversal advertising and partnerships. “It’s a first-party data asset that allows NBCU’s brands to create a more personalized, targeted, addressable consumer experience.”

NBCUnified is tied to the NBCU ID, which reaches 150 million individuals and 50 million households, giving advertisers an avenue to reach cross-platform audiences at scale. Lee projects that NBCUnified’s addressable audience pool will reach 200 million consumers by 2023, and that the company still hasn’t tapped into roughly 40% of its data sources.

“That's a big leap in terms of how big that addressable universe is,” he said.

Advertisers can bring custom audiences to NBCUnified and match them in a clean room environment to the NBCU ID. The network can then match that data with thousands of first-party data points on media consumption habits and preferences of NBCU viewers, as well as to third-party sources, to create vertical-specific custom audiences. 

“We can get a picture of the consumers that are most responsive and engaged with ads in those categories, and how that relates to who they are,” Lee said. “For instance, are they a business news consumer and do they also watch reality TV?”

Despite the scale of NBCUnified, Lee stressed the company is not trying to build a walled garden, and said the platform is interoperable with agency data platforms and other identity solutions. 

“We are cautious about consumer data privacy, but we balance that with the understanding that advertisers need to make their audiences portable for cross-platform optimization and measurement,” Lee explained. “So we are enabling those use cases in a way that walled gardens make impossible.” 

NBCUnified will also underpin the media giant’s new measurement framework, for which it is currently testing partners involved in an RFP called in August. Lee said the platform does not use cookies and that it marks “a move toward a future where we will have zero dependence on third-party identifiers.”

Until now, NBCU had been operating its One Platform initiative with a variety of first- and third-party identity signals that allowed each business unit to understand its audience. Now that these signals all ladder up to NBCUnified, advertisers can get a cross-platform picture of their audience activity across NBCU’s properties. 

“We already had a lot of great signals,” Lee said. “We just evolved and advanced our way of stitching it together.”

NBCUnified future proofs the network for a world where “there is a bigger shift to digital and CTV channels and away from traditional [media],” Lee said. 

But importantly, recognizing that linear is still a huge portion of the business, the platform also makes it “easy to utilize one granular view of the consumer audience across those two different worlds.”

“The One Platform strategy is, build that audience once and execute it across everything,” Lee explained. “That's where we think the puck is going.”

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