NBCU lining up mobile content

Web ads have chalked up $13 bil in the last year

NBC Universal is devising a strategy to sell program services like NBC Weather Plus to mobile-phone companies.

Calling these companies “a natural extension” of the online version of Weather Plus, NBC U TV stations prexy Jay Ireland said local TV stations, like the 14 owned by NBC Universal, are poised to harvest a “significant portion” of the revenues from Internet advertising.

Web ads have chalked up $13 billion in the last year.

Ireland was the keynote speaker at the Kagan Radio/TV Values & Finance Seminar on Thursday morning.

The key asset controlled by the NBC O&Os is their local programming, which takes up about 50% of the broadcast day, particularly local news. On TV stations throughout the U.S., Ireland said, “The number of local newscasts has grown by almost 70%” in the last 10 years.

Ireland acknowledged that most dayparts have suffered Nielsen erosion during the last decade, including the 6 p.m. newscasts, which are down by double digits in total viewers. But the equation is completely reversed for the stations at 6 a.m., where locally produced hourlong newscasts have struck a rich mother lode, generating a 58% increase in total viewers between November 1994 and November 2004.

NBC’s stations all continue to beef up their Web sites, and Ireland said NBC U’s goal is to put as much as possible of that local content not only on the Internet but on cell phones, video-on-demand, iPods and any other platform that would allow people to see TV shows at their convenience.

Ireland said NBC U is listening to “the marching orders coming from our viewers,” which he interprets as “Give me what I want and need, and get it to me when I want it, and get it to me on any one of many electronic devices, from my television to my computer to my cell phone.”

According to TV Bureau of Advertising data cited by Kagan Research, Web sites produced by broadcasters will generate up to $500 million in ad revenue this year.

Cable systems, satellite distributors and phone companies have to negotiate deals to carry a local TV station in their markets. Kagan predicted that the cash value of these transactions — retransmission consent, in industry jargon — will almost double from $225 million this year to $442 million next.

Ireland said NBC’s stations get “other value” than cash from cable systems. NBC U “owns cable properties,” he said, so a cable system might agree to take a new NBC U network like Sleuth in exchange for gaining carriage of the local NBC station.

The importance of creating a potentially lucrative asset like Sleuth far outweighs cash payments from cable operators.