"Our vision is to be a fully integrated organization, constantly exploring new platforms and investing in new ideas," Beth Comstock, president of NBC Universal integrated media, told the crowd of some 200 media buyers and advertisers. "What we like about out-of-home is that it breaks through. What's exciting about all of this digital technology is it's allowing us to be measurable."
3 billion impressions
The company estimates that the nine NBC Everywhere platforms will gain some 3 billion impressions in 2008, with new networks coming soon in gyms (via a strategic partnership with Ideacast in more than 200 markets), college campuses (a partnership with the University Network at more than 180 colleges) and on New Jersey PATH trains (NBC In Transit, launching in June). Although advertising will be featured prominently on the new screens, the play is just as much about driving TV content as it is about gaining ad dollars. "This is not a shift away from TV," said John Wallace, president of NBC's local media division. "We're looking at TV as the core for our out-of-home networks."
NBC Everywhere is also meant to be a complement to the 600-plus out-of-home networks and vendors in the marketplace, many of which major brands and media buyers never would have the time to meet with individually. "Our mentality is just because you have a screen somewhere, that doesn't mean you should invest in it," said Mark French, general manager and senior VP of NBC Everywhere. "The most important thing is the consumer's experience. So we asked, 'Does NBC content make sense in this space?'"
Jack Sullivan, senior VP and out-of-home-media director for Starcom, said the NBC Everywhere event eventually could lead to similar out-of-home presentations from the other broadcast networks, which have sold out-of-home media for even longer. CBS has its CBS Outdoor division, which includes an extensive network of billboards and digital video screens, and recently acquired retail network SignStorey in September for $71.2 million. ABC has its own local media sales division and recently has sold its content to niche networks such as Gas Station TV and Prolink, a network of screens on golf carts.
'Needs to gain momentum'
Mr. Sullivan said he was impressed by the amount of focus and attention NBC Everywhere had brought to the rapidly growing out-of-home-video market, valued by PQ Media at $1.28 billion in spending in 2007. But he said he wasn't sure if NBC was quite big enough to be a major player just yet. "The scale needs to gain momentum," he said. "You can buy across a venue more efficiently, but I wouldn't as a national advertiser want to buy across everything."
Still, he gave the network kudos for its strong Manhattan presence, between the taxi network, Times Square coverage and forthcoming PATH train screens.