When Digiday reported recently how Comcast-owned NBCUniversal was beginning to use FreeWheel, its ad-tech software stablemate, to schedule linear TV ads, it set industry tongues wagging.

That sort of integration requires extensive infrastructure development. But bigger things are coming, says James Rooke, FreeWheel GM, publishers, who explains the workings in this video interview with Beet.TV.

“The foundation is enabling the digital ad server, FreeWheel’s digital ad server, to be able to understand and receive linear television logs,” Rooke says. “And that really is building the connective tissue between the traditional NBC’s linear tracking system and FreeWheel’s digital ad server.

“Once you’ve built that connective tissue, then you can start to leverage FreeWheel’s digital ad server to use this intelligence to make decisions about how the linear log should be scheduled.”

As Digiday’s Tim Peterson reported: “FreeWheel is not pulling digital video ads and putting them on linear TV — for now. (But this) sets up for a day when its linear and digital inventory can be treated equally.”

Rooke says NBC has made the move because ad buyers are calling for a single unified way to buy moving-image ads, whether on “TV” or in “video”. “Executing on that is incredibly hard,” he concedes.

Rooke outlined a three-phase approach he will use to pull it off:

  1. Phase one: This connecting of fundamental systems. Now complete.
  2. Phase two: “Use FreeWheel’s digital ad server to be able to take a look at the linear schedule and say, ‘Hey, I think there’s a better way to organize that schedule that will enable better delivery on behalf of NBC and ultimately on behalf of the advertiser’. Rooke says FreeWheel will work on that integration through 2019, starting on a smaller NBC channel and rolling up to all of them within eight to 12 months.
  3. Phase three: Supporting buying audiences, not just demographics. “Building the foundation of your single decision brain, the ad decision engine that is based on principles in digital, enables you to execute much more sophisticated use cases, audience based use cases, data-enabled use cases, on behalf of NBC that can work not just in digital environments but across linear environments as well.”
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