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CEO Jeff Shell Says NBCU ‘Pretty Much Done’ With Upfront

Jeff Shell
(Image credit: NBCUniversal)

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said that the company is “pretty much done” with its upfront sales.

“It was the strongest upfront I think in the history of NBCUniversal," said Shell, speaking Monday morning at a Credit Suisse investor conference.

“Our approach allowed us to go early in the market and take advantage of the strength of the market,” Shell said.

He said NBCU sold about the same share of its ad inventory as it had in past upfront. “Pricing was extraordinary,” he said, but he did not provide precise numbers for how much prices were up.

He noted that in this upfront, NBCU sold its sports properties as part of its single platform approach. Depending on ratings, Shell said the Tokyo games could be the “most profitable” games the company has had. 

On Friday, the CW finished its upfront sales and recorded price increase of between 19% and 21%, according to sources.

Shell said that the upfront ad market was strong partly because of the shift in ratings points from ad-supported television to non-ad supported streaming. With advertisers coming out of the pandemic looking to advertising, “there’s not as much ratings points available . . . creating a classic supply squeeze,” he said.

He also said that the market was becoming barbell shaped, with large reach at one end of the market and granular precision at the other end. 

“As linear is declining advertisers are trying to reach wherever they can find reach. Reach is difficult to find in the market,” Shell said. “If they can’t get reach, they want granularity of data about who is seeing their ads.”

Peacock, NBCU’s streaming service, has contributed to NBCU’s ability to deliver that kind of data about viewers.

“We launched Peacock, thank god a year ago,” he said, adding that the company chose the right business model, with ads and a free tier.

“We have reach and we have granularity and we sell it as one platform,” he said.