TV Upfront

Ring 'em Up: NBC Universal Study Calls Its Lifestyle Nets a Boon for Retailers

Combining Credit Card Data and Nielsen Ratings to Show Sales Results

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'Keeping Up With the Kardashians.'
'Keeping Up With the Kardashians.' Credit: NBC

NBC Universal's Lifestyle Networks group is heading into the upfront marketplace armed with a new study that says retailers get more bang for their buck when they buy time on Bravo, E! and Oxygen.

The study found that retailers ring up $15 at the cash register for every dollar spent on the three cable networks, NBC Universal said. The networks outperformed a dozen competitive cable channels in return on advertising spend by as much as 90%, according to Laura Molen, exec VP, lifestyle advertising sales, NBCU.

NBCU generated the results by tapping into the Nielsen Buyer Insights database, a system designed to re-establish the causal links between TV viewership and consumer behavior. The database blends Nielsen's TV ratings with analysis of anonymized credit and debit card transactions.

The study linked deliveries of retail ads across the three nets in the first quarter of last year to spending at national retail outlets, a sample that included apparel, department stores, consumer electronics and beauty brands.

It's the latest example of TV networks trying to use data to demonstrate their worth to marketers. As money continues to be siphoned off by digital, traditional TV outlets are pulling out all the stops to prove that TV is still the smarter buy for marketers looking to move product.

"We have to push our business forward and think far beyond the old way of simply selling spots," said Katie Larkin, who steers by the running lights of data as NBCU's exec VP, advertising sales, research and strategy.

At the same time, however, the study doesn't include comparisons with digital media, so it doesn't directly address the interlopers. NBCU did characterize the 15-to-1 ratio as a "return on advertising spend," a metric usually reserved for search marketing/pay-per-click ad models.

The study is just the beginning but is a step toward closing the loop on proof of performance, Ms. Molen said.

NBCU selected the first quarter as its testing interval because the first three months of the year provide a stabilized control period for a retail study, given that they lie outside the usual periods (back-to-school, holidays, etc.) in which retail spending is inflated.

It excluded the lifestyle group's fourth lifestyle brand, Esquire Network, because it is not a significant draw for retail dollars. (Esquire's top categories are insurance, quick-service restaurants and automotive.)

Bravo's audience is the largest and most affluent of the three networks. In the first quarter of last year, the network averaged 947,000 live-plus-same-day viewers in prime time, making it the No. 20 ad-supported cable destination. Per, Bravo's biggest retail sponsors include Macy's, Ashley Furniture Homestore and TJ Maxx. E!'s top retail clients include JC Penney, Ashley Furniture Homestore and Target, while Oxygen does brisk business with the likes of IKEA, Kmart and Burlington Coat Factory.

The entire NBCU portfolio of cable nets, a collective that includes the lifestyle brands as well as the general entertainment outlets USA Network and Syfy, will pitch its upfront wares to buyers and advertisers on Thursday, May 14.

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