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NBCUniversal dominates ad sales using SAS® Analytics to predict ratings, optimize bundles and pricing


The world’s largest media-advertising organization doesn’t just amass mountains of data from broadcast, cable and digital properties. NBCUniversal puts it to good use, analyzing data with SAS® to ensure that ads are generating maximum profit and also performing better for clients.

“As we’ve grown and acquired various companies, we can no longer operate as independent entities,” said John Hope, Director of Ad Sales Analytics. “That means we need to aggregate and analyze data from previous silos to assess overall customer profitability. SAS Analytics is easy to use and especially valuable for improving business strategy and operational performance. And by integrating SAS with our Salesforce CRM system, we can track the performance of all our sales initiatives and campaigns.”

Initially, the ad sales team used SAS to model and segment customers based on media property, customer industry, size, and other metrics. They divided up prospects: high-priority opportunities went to seasoned account executives, junior salespeople took the medium opportunities, and an internal call center handled the rest.

“But the real value emerged when we used SAS with our bigger broadcast properties to optimize our pricing,” Hope said. “In these segments, we take pricing principles from the airline industry. ’What will this prospect pay for this spot on this network at this time?’ Last year, a major Hollywood studio was releasing one of the year’s biggest blockbusters. We used SAS to analyze the marketing campaigns of various studios, coming up with historical spending patterns and timing. By arming their ad agency with this insight, we maximized our revenue and helped a client outperform in its market.”

With its digital properties growing tremendously over recent years, NBCUniversal faces a new challenge: deciphering where and when content is consumed via tablets, phones, laptops etc.

“Harnessing digital data is daunting, but digital is the future” said Hope. “SAS delivers state-of-the-art digital analytics and we need that. Our ad teams have to understand where and when content is consumed, and where our clients are spending money on both broadcast and digital. With that, they can devise attractive, cross-channel bundles that will persuade advertisers to make bigger – and more profitable – investments in NBCUniversal.”

In an era of media proliferation, another growing concern is audience deficiency units (ADUs) – the “make goods” that NBCUniversal must supply to advertisers if a spot doesn’t reach the promised viewership. “With SAS, we’re in a much stronger position to predict what our ratings will be, factoring in variables such as guests on a show, seasonality, or econometric data,” Hope explained. “SAS is helping us protect our on-air inventory by minimizing our ADUs.”

NBCUniversal also uses SAS to identify new sales prospects that share similar attributes with existing, profitable customers.

Moving forward, Hope sees SAS as the foundation for NBCUniversal’s center of excellence in ad sales. “We’ll use SAS to build an automatic plan generator that consolidates offers and opportunities for our sales team,” he said. “This is part of a cultural shift within our organization – and SAS will play a crucial role.”

About SAS
SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. Through innovative solutions, SAS helps customers at more than 65,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know® .


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