By Sheila Dang
(Reuters) - Comcast Corp is pooling the advertising power of its NBCUniversal and British-based Sky units to better target viewers worldwide, it said on Monday, a major step by the top U.S. cable TV provider to transform itself into a global media leader.
The initiative would allow global advertisers to target specific households based on their interests, widely seen as the future of TV advertising. It comes ahead of an important ad sales period in May called the upfronts, when major U.S. networks including NBC will tout upcoming shows and advertising technology in hopes of selling commercial time in advance of the next television season.
The AdSmart service offers the strengths of NBCUniversal's artificial intelligence in media planning, and Sky's long experience in targeting ads to households based on their interests. Comcast paid $40 billion for Sky, a satellite TV, broadband and mobile operator, in September to fuel global growth and counter declines in U.S. cable TV subscribers.
The service would ultimately allow global advertisers to automatically place ads on the most relevant shows, and measure the results across NBCUniversal and Sky's TV and digital platforms as advertising becomes more global.
"The strategy is no longer country by country or market by market," said Jamie West, group director of advanced advertising for Sky, in an interview. "It eases the friction of purchasing across NBCUniversal and Sky."
Showing viewers ads that more closely match their interests improves the viewing experience, and is ultimately better for marketers, said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, in an interview.
NBCUniversal, which includes CNBC and U.S. Spanish language network Telemundo, uses AI to scan scenes in a TV show to place an ad in the optimal spot, a strategy called contextual alignment. For example, if a TV show depicts a flooded home, the AI-powered system could insert an ad for a home insurance provider.
(Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Richard Chang)