Comcast Play for NBC Universal Is a Bet on Future of Advertising


Comcast is looking to take a 51% stake in NBC Universal, surely a sign of the durability of cable networks, since NBCU owns a bunch of top-tier ones. But there's more going on here: It's also a calculated move to seize the reins in shaping future TV-viewer behavior and a bid to assume the lead in figuring out how to advertise to the new-media consumer. "There are real potential synergies that could arise from an NBCU deal, including ... better windows for video-on-demand and faster development of addressable advertising," wrote Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett in a recent research note. Indeed, a merger of a big content player and a broad media distributor could create "a tipping point," said Tracey Scheppach, senior VP-video innovation director for Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA. "If a big content player like NBC breaks loose with a new business model and advertisers embrace it, others would have to move quickly." A combined company would cement Comcast's place as the nation's biggest media company, and it would become the fourth-largest owner of cable networks (behind Walt Disney Co., Time Warner and Viacom.). Consider the sizable audiences a combined Comcast/NBCU could offer marketers, including the potential to target female consumers through NBC's Bravo and iVillage as well as Comcast's E!, Style and dailycandy.com, for example. Comcast's sports properties, such as Golf Channel and Versus, could be paired with NBC's "Sunday Night Football" to similarly reach a male target.

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