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NBC Universal’s Chairman, Advertising & Client Partnerships, Linda Yaccarino Only Wants to Shake Up Measurement, the TV Ad Experience, and the Industry’s Fundamental Business Model

May 27, 2020


Episode Summary

NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino discusses the company’s ambitions for its video service Peacock, and why she’s convinced advertising will play a vital role in the streaming wars. Yaccarino also breaks down how marketers have been responding to the Covid-driven economic slowdown and what she thinks that will mean for the future of the TV upfront model.


Episode Transcript

Mike (19s):
Hey guys, this is Mike Shields and this week on Next in Marketing, I got to talk to NBCUniversal’s top sales executive Linda Yaccarino. We discussed the company’s huge bet on the streaming service Peacock, how advertisers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis and why she thinks the idea that binge viewers just don’t like advertising is totally overblown. Let’s get into it. So I’m lucky enough to talk to you. A very busy person today. Linda Yaccarino, I would always refer to her as NBCU sales chief, but you can, you are chairman of advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, is that correct?

Linda (50s):
Hi Mike. Yes. If you want to be specific.

Mike (53s):
I like it. It sounds very powerful. Hi, how are you? Thank you for taking time out during this crazy time in all our lives.

Linda (1m 0s):
Well thank you for thinking of us, and I’m really happy to connect with you today.

Mike (1m 7s):
Lots to talk about. Let’s start with the big, huge business bet you’re making. I was like, I was thinking about this. You guys are NBCUniversal. You’ve been in the advertising business. You’re now going really rapidly into becoming a tech product company and a direct to consumer business with Peacock. It’s a huge bet. It’s the kind of thing that big media companies are not always comfortable doing, right? These are, you’re disrupting yourself. Talk about the, give me the origin story of Peacock and how you got to getting ready to launch.

Linda (1m 41s):
I love the question. I find it very fascinating that your question asks or puts Peacock in the huge bet category, which is really interesting. So that notion of Peacock started probably now close to three years ago, which really was the idea or inspiration that was driven by consumer behavior. And we looked at the different consumption habits of consumers, which obviously were gravitating towards digital and towards streaming.

Linda (2m 18s):
But we also were getting a loud and clear message that if given the opportunity to have an enjoyable experience with ads that were relevant to them and the right amount of them, if you could combine those things together, and you were a company that potentially had a huge vault of content that gives, you know, cultural and historic relevance all the time, and you also had the opportunity to keep feeding it with content that was currently in the culturalal zeitgeist and perhaps you’re in the sports business.

Linda (2m 56s):
And perhaps you’re in the news business, that may be the coming together of all of that. It made the idea for a new streaming opportunity that was both ad supported, but such a natural part of our company and our history, but make it with ads that were relevant that spoke to the other capabilities of our company, which was the treasure trove of data that we have in the technology investments that we’ve been making. In addition to, Hey, we just acquired sky, look what they’re doing.
Linda (3m 28s):
And it was kind of like a lightning in a bottle moment that said, we’ve been talking about this for a long time. Now’s the time. And the good fortune, if there’s any good fortune that comes out of this time, that we’re in. And it’s hard to find silver linings, but to be able to come to the people of the United States with a great value proposition, that’s free. It sounds, sounds pretty good.

Linda (3m 58s):
Sounds pretty good right now, but you’re right.

Mike (4m 0s):
It’s not a, I’m calling it a huge bet. It’s certainly not crazy to lean into streaming. That makes total sense.

Linda (4m 7s):
But it is not going to do good in Vegas if you think it is a big, big stretch. So I want you to bet a little bigger, cause I think that’s a pretty solid bet, not great odds. You know, there’s great odds for its success, but you’re not going to have, you know, it’s a pretty sure bet, I would say, and early returns are great as my points.

Mike (4m 26s):
It is different in that your PR, you know, you’re a product company and a tech company and a data company more so than you’ve ever been. Can you talk about like, what’s hard for me when they’re deciding, okay, I’m going to launch a streaming service and I have to build a product and build a team. What goes into that?

Linda (4m 45s):
Well, when you think about it and you pull the lens back a little bit, NBC universal is mapping its entire company and strategies to mirror consumer behavior. Right? If you look at it even most recently, how we’ve reorganized our content teams to all rally around and come together to become one horizontal platform, as opposed to vertical businesses that is purely and merely the next step in a reflection of consumer behavior, Peacock is one of those things.


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Meet our host, Mike Shields

Mike Shields is the founder of Shields Strategic Consulting. Shields covered the ad business for over 15 years at top publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, Adweek and Digiday.

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