FreeWheel Helps Automate NBCU Linear Ad Scheduling

(Image credit: FreeWheel)

FreeWheel has delivered a system that will automate and optimize the way NBCUniversal schedules commercials on its linear network, paving the way for more flexible, cross-platform campaigns, digital ad insertions and, eventually, addressable advertising on traditional TV channels.

Both FreeWheel and NBCU are part of Comcast. FreeWheel will also be able to deliver customized systems for automatically optimizing linear schedules to other clients as well.

FreeWheel’s new AutoScheduler technology analyzes ad breaks on linear networks and business parameters to fill out a complete schedule, dynamically placing spots across all NBCU networks so that they deliver each client’s target demographic.

“Our goal is to help marketers reach any audience at scale, on any screen,” said Ryan McConville, executive VP, ad platforms and operations, NBCUniversal. “With the same discipline and response time as a digital ad server, the AutoScheduler technology will help clients reach their target demos across linear with accuracy and precision. The technology was built to align optimization capabilities of a linear traffic log with a modern-day ad server.”

FreeWheel’s technology already schedules ads in NBCU’s digital assets and enables clients to get a single invoice when it buys ads on multiple NBCU platforms.

“In a lot of ways, linear had been a sort of final frontier for us,” said Benjamin Miller, VP of product management at FreeWheel. The old-school way of handing linear ad schedule limited the ability of the network to create cross channel campaigns that use data to target specific consumer groups.

“This really shows the industry that we have an ability to support a publishers full suite of premium video inventory and help them offer to their customers the ability to reach their audience no matter what they’re watching or where they’re watching.”

Miller said that the system will help NBCU fulfill upfront orders with schedules that efficiently reach advertisers target markets and allow the flexibility to change schedules nimbly should an advertiser’s plans change, if programs are rearranged or if audience viewing shifts.

Automating linear scheduling also opens the door to more data-driven campaigns aimed at targeted audiences and, eventually, to addressable advertising. 

FreeWheel’s ad decision making process supports Dynamic Ad Insertion at the impression level for digital and on-demand investor. “Linear is still not quite there yet, but we have the foundation in place that will allow for us with NBC to continue to evolve that footprint and support more dynamic options,” Miller said.

FreeWheel handles ad tech for a number of programmers, and FreeWheel is laying the foundation for them to be ready for addressable advertising as well with systems tailored to their assets.

“We’re rolling out similar versions as we speak,” he said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.