NBC Ad Sales Chief Looking Beyond the 30-Second Spot

An Upfront Q&A With Keith Turner

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Next week, the ad sales presidents at the broadcast networks will begin the race to lock down advertisers' dollars for next season. What's the prize? The biggest piece they can grab of the $18 billion marketers are prepared to spend on TV. Advertising Age's Claire Atkinson had a chance to speak with each of the key players. Here, she talks to Keith Turner, president-sales and marketing, NBC Universal, about plans to sell his network's digital extensions, dubbed "TV 360," getting the NFL and where his rates will fall this year.
Keith Turner, president-sales and marketing, NBC Universal
Keith Turner, president-sales and marketing, NBC Universal Credit: Darryl Estrine

MediaWorks: Tell us about Jeff Zucker's "TV 360" sell this year. Will it apply to every property and will you be selling iVillage in this year's upfront?

Keith Turner: We are trying to develop online extensions for all products: the network, cable, Telemundo, news, any NBC product. We have over 100 ideas we'll take to market: digital, video on demand -- components we want to tie into to an ad campaign. It's not just about the :30, but extensions of that. In all of our conversations with advertisers, everybody's looking for some kind of connection. IVillage, it looks like the close won't happen until this month. It's too early to tell.

MW: Can you give us some examples of where you are doing things online?

Turner: With "Scrubs," Bravo's "Project Runway" and "The Office," there are over 100 ideas as we get into the marketplace.

MW: Are you giving the sales staff incentives to sell new media. Aren't they compensated by selling :30s?

Turner: The product is something that everyone sells, and everyone communicates about it. Cross-platform sells are something we've been talking about since I took over in 1998.

MW: Does the upfront matter?

Turner: It really is about the whole year. The upfront is what it is and then you move on and you have a fair amount to sell and resell.

MW: How was scatter for you after the upfront? Is there anything you would have done differently in last year's upfront?

Turner: The scatter market ended up OK for everybody. Everybody knew what happened in the upfront and that's history. I really don't spend a lot of time thinking about what could have been or should have been. Our focus now is about the development for this year.

MW: What economic factors have the greatest effect on upfront dollars?

Turner: We count the house. We look at cars, retail, movies and second-quarter and third-quarter options. A lot goes into the modeling. The macro-economic picture in the overall scheme is important, but it's not easy to predict.

MW: What are your predictions for upfront dollars this year?

Turner: I'm not a soothsayer in terms of predictions. The market feels like its going to be OK. We feel good about development. It's too early to tell.

MW: Who or what is your biggest competition for dollars?

Turner: Anyone that can connect an ad with a consumer, not just another network or cable, anybody with an idea. Talk to any advertiser or marketer -- they're all looking for the new extension that will help them with what they're developing.

MW: What makes your offering unique?

Turner: How long is this article? We've got "Today," "Tonight," "Nightly News." We're No. 1 in upscale [viewers]. Bravo, Telemundo and with "360," the breadth of the offering is mind boggling.

MW: You've got National Football League back on Sundays this fall. What can you tell us about the ad opportunities? We're hearing about new enhancements?

Turner: We're thrilled to be back in football. Chairman of NBC Universal Sports Dick Ebersol and his team are the best at it. He's got some ideas in terms of how we'll telecast -- it's a work in progress. He hasn't announced everything. The response has been great, and we're just getting into it. The discussion on enhancements is still on going with league. That will be resolved shortly.

MW: What's the most common negotiating tactic you hear from buyers?

Turner: There is not one common theme, everyone's looking for best value. Each agency and client is unique and the negotiation stands on it own.

MW: Who will be spending more or less in the upfront? Are there buoyant sectors? Are some categories spending less?

Turner: Too early to tell, I don't have a good feel for that yet. Some years we'll have it next week, some years it's September.

MW: How will the DVR debate be resolved?

Turner: We're all thirsting for information and research on that. All [networks] are looking to be recognized for "live plus seven."

MW: Do you have a DVR?

Turner: Yes, I do

MW: Do you ad skip?

Turner: No, but I floss after every meal

MW: What one thing would you like your clients to know?

Turner: I'd like them to know we are very excited about our product and feel very good about the slate, the strength of our other assets and we now have a digital platform to bring. We are open for business and customer-friendly.

MW: Will you roll back rates?

Turner: None of your business.
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