NBCU’s Upfront Pitch Puts Assets ‘All Together’

The pride is back in the peacock.

NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke invited the press up to its headquarters at 30 Rock Monday to do a little pre-upfront boasting about how well the NBC broadcast network is doing among the 18-49 year old viewers that are so important in winning the ad sales game.

On the chairs in the conference room were a set of charts and graphs showing NBC as No. 1 with TodayNightly News, primetime,  The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers.

“That’s the grand slam of network television,” Burke said, adding that NBC was going into the upfront “in better shape than we have been for a decade.”

CBS CEO Les Moonves, no shrinking violet, has been predicting at financial conferences that he expects his network to lead the broadcasters in volume and price increases.

But Linda Yaccarino (pictured), NBCU’s aggressive ad sales president, won’t settle for second best.

NBCU has rolled out a new slogan “All Together. Different.” While CBS has the most watched network in total viewers, NBCU has an array of assets and a sales structure reporting to Yaccarino designed to slice and dice them according to client needs.

Burke said that that these days marketers can’t launch a campaign with any one network, or with just broadcast. “More people watch TV through NBC outlets than through any other company,” he said. “We can have one person speak for all those outlets. If you have a new product, we can help you get that to market in a way other people can’t.”

What NBCU’s got starts with the 2015 Super Bowl. While not offering specifics, Yaccarino says sales are pacing ahead of the last time NBC had the big game and prices are up above the $4 million-plus Fox got for this year’s game.

Yaccarino says NBCU has entertainment programming ranging from The Blacklist to Real Housewives and its high ratings in late night can be combined with prime for advertisers looking for more 18 to 49 eyeballs. Advertisers who bought the Tonight Show in last year’s upfront are getting more than they paid for because Fallon’s doing so well, she noted. NBCU also has live programming with sports and news, cable networks whose ratings are up at a time when the rest of the industry is down, two Spanish-language networks and a bunch of digital assets.

And if advertisers want to do programmatic buys, or set up private exchanges, NBCU is willing to talk to customers about doing that in this upfront, Yaccarino said. And it wants to do other data driven deals, such as its NBCU Plus Powered by Comcast products.

She says supply and demand will determine how NBC performs in the upfront. It’s got supply and advertisers like NBCU’s portfolio approach to sales. Does Yaccarino think NBCU will outperform CBS? “What do you think," she says with a smile.

That smile will have teeth. For all of its success in ratings, Burke still believes that NBCU’s properties command lower prices on a cost-per-thousands viewers (CPM) basis than its rivals, and that’s something it aims to remedy during this upfront, although he declined to say how much of a CPM increase he would aim for in this upfront.

But it’s about time for NBC to make money for Comcast. Burke’s predecessor, Jeff Zucker, now running CNN, used to point out that while NBC commanded the headlines, it represented a tiny fraction of NBCU’s profit. Burke said he’d be happy if NBC’s profits rose and that percentage became substantial.