NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A fraction of NBC Universal's ad inventory is now in the hands of Google, as the search-advertising company officially rolls out its Google TV Ads program.Ads brokered by Google will begin appearing Thursday in the early morning -- around 6 a.m. or so -- on Chiller and Sleuth, two digital-cable outlets owned by NBC Universal. The Google ad program will extend to cable networks CNBC, MSNBC, Sci Fi and Oxygen throughout the rest of the quarter, according to an NBC Universal spokeswoman who declined to specify the types of advertisers signed on so far. The pact raised eyebrows when it was announced in September, but NBC Universal may be on to something as marketers crave more ability to customize their ad plans, placing commercials on air at specific times and in specific ways, rather than just spraying them across a network's programming. In exchange, NBC may be able to bring in new business from smaller advertisers who wouldn't normally try to purchase its national advertising inventory. Could set precedent
"Although the amount of national inventory is likely to be small and relatively unattractive -- mostly nonprime and inventory sold to direct-response advertisers (infomercials) -- if Google can sell the inventory more effectively and cost-efficiently than the current sales force efforts, we believe that it could set an important precedent that other cable networks may follow," wrote Bernstein Research analyst Michael Nathanson in a Sept. 9 research note. Under the terms of the three-year deal, NBC sets a floor for pricing, as well as standards of quality. It also has control over its inventory, so that if a Google TV ad were to pose a conflict with another advertiser on air, the Google ad would have to run in a different fashion. The Google program is expected to extend to NBC's local TV stations at some point in the near future, a development that will also be closely watched. Local stations have been hurt significantly during this economic downturn, with one of their main sources of ad revenue -- automobile manufacturers and dealers -- crimping their spending.