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Univision Joins ‘Open A.P.’ Audience-Targeting Alliance (EXCLUSIVE)

Spanish-language broadcaster Univision is the latest TV company to join “Open A.P.,” an alliance of media outlets eager to accelerate the emerging advertising practice known as “audience buying.”

Univision jumps aboard the venture – started last year by Viacom, Time Warner’s Turner and 21st Century Fox’s Fox Networks Group – as TV’s “upfront” market starts getting into gear. U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad time in late spring and early summer before the start of the next programming season. NBCUniversal said in April that it would join the “Open A.P.” board of directors.

“We want to make it easy for advertisers who wish to do business with us,” says Steve Mandala, president of advertising sales and marketing for Univision, in an interview. “Every advertiser has asked us to use something more precise than age and sex demographics.”

Univision is expected to announce its “Open A.P.” affiliation Monday during a presentation to advertisers and media buyers. The service will be made available as part of Aperture, a suite of data-based services for advertisers that it recently unveiled

Univision’s move makes the bulk of Spanish-language broadcasting in the U.S. available to marketers who wish to use the service. NBCUniversal owns Telemundo, Univision’s primary TV rival.

“Open A.P.,” which uses data from such providers as comScore and Nielsen and is operated and monitored by Accenture, gives advertisers a standard group of data sets to use when trying to define narrower segments of consumers, such as first-time car buyers, expectant mothers or avid moviegoers. Armed with reams of data about customer choice, viewer behavior and digital presence, Madison Avenue has grown more enchanted with “audience buying” deals that some blue-chip advertisers find more meaningful than the traditional parameters, which largely have to do with age and gender.

NBCUniversal and Univision’s decision to join the effort gives it decidedly more heft in the industry. “It’s starting to move toward an industry standard,” says Mandala. “As they start to gain critical mass, I think there will be accelerated growth.”   Univision is not joining the venture’s board of directors. There are different fees associated with the different levels of membership.

The companies’ ability to come together may prove crucial to the industry’s future. With audiences migrating to a growing number of video opportunities, the media industry is having a tough time keeping up with measuring viewership and charging for it. If the sector can’t devise a single methodology for counting the consumers viewing its content, it risks further fragmentation – a difficult thing to explain to national advertisers looking for seamless ways to reach their customers.

Each company will continue to sell its own commercial time and space, but the wider participation in the “Open A.P.” technology means advertisers will be able to use defined sets of audience that apply across a greater section of the industry. When NBCU joined in April, the companies said their portfolios represented 50% of total TV inventory across national broadcast and cable entertainment. Univision’s decision will likely augment that figure.

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