LONDON  – Two years after Comcast acquired European satellite powerhouse Sky to sit alongside NBCUniversal in the US, the pair’s knowledge exchange on TV ad targeting is bedding in, leaving them pushing even farther ahead in tandem on a global odyssey.

Sky was the incumbent satellite provider in the UK, Germany, Italy and Ireland when it was acquired in 2018, in what had been a surprised exit to NBCUniversal given its historic part-ownership by News Corp.

Since then, the pair announced the merger of NBCUniversal’s Audience Studio with Sky’s AdSmart, a pioneering addressable TV advertising system.

Then they announced that Sky Media Sales, Sky’s ad sales house, would begin using NBCU’s CFlight unified advertising metric.

In this video interview with Jon Watts for Beet.TV, Sky Media Sales MD John Litster talks about progress.

CFlight has taken flight

“In the UK (thanks to CFlight), we now can demonstrate to advertisers and agencies de-duplicated reach and frequency across all BARB target audiences, across both the linear transmissions and the video-on-demand transmissions,” he says. “So we’ve basically made it a lot easier for agencies and advertisers to assess the reach capability of linear and VOD in the UK.

“We’ve been so successful in doing it, and it’s really pleasing to say that both ITV and Channel 4, our competition, are heavily involved in CFlight as well.

“As of June of next year, across the UK you will be able to see de-duplicated reach and frequency across linear and VOD for ITV channels, for Sky channels and the Channel 4 channels. I think that’s testament to the fact that TV as an industry in the UK is determined to make sure that advertisers can see what value they’re getting for their advertising pound spent.”

Next up, Sky wants to introduce CFlight into Germany and Italy.

ITV for AdSmart?

Sky launched AdSmart back in 2014, using its own customer data to analyze viewers on advertisers’ behalf and sending household-specific linear TV ads to their set-top boxes – one of the first and widest-scale addressable TV deployments anywhere.

In its home UK, AdSmart benefitted early by being deployed on the largest pay-TV platform, Sky’s own. It has since struck partnerships with Virgin Media and Channel 4. It is hoping ITV may yet join in.

“We should have Channel 4 up and running on the AdSmart platform at some point next year and we’re still in ongoing conversation with ITV,” Litster says. “The idea behind that is the broader reach that we have for addressability in the UK, the more attractive AdSmart becomes to more advertisers.

“Likewise in the US, they’re making great strides in terms of delivering addressability in that space.”

Common content offer

But the Comcast-Sky convergence is now going beyond ad platforms. Litster says the companies are looking at attracting global brand marketers to content for which they hold rights in multiple territories.

“We have a load of content that is common across the territories, across both the US the UK, Germany, and Italy,” he says.

“We’re active in the market at the moment at an advertiser level, trying to get advertisers to do business with us and to do partnerships with us across the territories, using a common property – be that Premier League, or potentially Formula One.

“We like to think that we’re delivering for advertisers a unique club-type environment, where they can do pretty similar things across all the territories in which both NBCU and Sky now operate.”

Going global

Litster acknowledges such global TV ad buys may not make up the majority of his business. Indeed, one of AdSmart’s trump cards until now has been that targetability by geography and viewer attributes has allowed a new wave of smaller brand to buy TV ads for the first time.

But he is speaking to what is a growing need on the part of some multinationals to simplify their global ad buying.

“There are global players out there that are interested in having a dialogue about a standard message that they have across the territories and we’re engaging with those people.

Now, they take a long time in happening. These are not things that happen overnight. These are not things that we talk about one day and happen the next, but there’s a surprising variety of brands that are having conversations either directly with us or with their agencies, that are trying to procure something across the various territories.”