NBCU Plans to Close Window on Buying Local TV Ads Via Traditional Ratings

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One of the nation’s most prominent TV companies intends to — finally — stop selling local commercials based on long-used TV ratings.

NBCUniversal announced in 2019 that planned to shift all transactions for local ad campaigns to impressions-based deals, but granted additional time to certain clients and agencies who needed to evaluate what the move might mean to their operations. Come April, however, that window is closing.

“We have to do it,” says Frank Comerford, chief revenue officer for local sales at NBCU, in an interview. “The world is moving on impressions, especially for our business. Let’s bite the bullet and go and do it.” The transition will affect local ad deals at NBCU’s 42 NBC and Telemundo stations

Many of the nation’s big TV-station owners, including Hearst and Nexstar Media Group, have already embraced the concept. The measurement change is meant to  spur advertisers to buy across multiple local outlets – not only the linear programs on a local TV station, but also the venues where that station may stream its local newsmagazine or early-morning news program. Some of the factors involved in the change have to do with the fact that linear viewership has spread out to encompass other media venues, including streaming video and mobile tablets, and traditional ratings don’t necessarily gauge traditional TV audiences that fall below a certain level.

“We are not getting the value that we are providing” when stations are using ratings, says Comerford.

Since NBCU made its decision, it has combined its local ad-sales staff with the rest of the company’s larger advertising efforts. And it ends use of local ratings-based deals as the industry prepared for its next “upfront” ad-sales cycle.

NBCU has worked to add new options to local advertising, and has been working to give marketers who tend to focus more on local and regional pockets of consumers more access to its broader suite of offerings, including ads that run on broadband-delivered video.