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MEDIA

Google to sell ads for NBC

The deal boosts the Internet giant's effort to expand into TV.

September 09, 2008|Jessica Guynn and Meg James | Times Staff Writers

SAN FRANCISCO — Google Inc.'s nascent efforts to break into the television advertising business received a boost Monday when NBC Universal said it would allow the Internet giant to sell some commercials for its cable networks.

The deal, whose terms were not disclosed, marks the first time that Google will broker ads sold through a TV network. It also could speed up efforts to make commercials more targeted and available to advertisers through an automated system similar to the one used to sell ads for the world's most-used search engine.

Google has big ambitions to broaden beyond Web advertising, but its 2-year-old TV Ads service has been slow to catch on. The Mountain View, Calif., company brokers TV commercials only for a small cable system in the Bay Area and for a small percentage of ads on Dish Network.

"This raises its profile and gives it a lot more credibility," said Greg Sterling, an analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence. "Other media companies will take notice of this."

Google and NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co., said the partnership covered advertising inventory on the Sci Fi, Oxygen, MSNBC, Sleuth and Chiller channels, but not on larger networks such as NBC, USA Network or Bravo.

The deal, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, unites two companies that have feuded. NBC last year complained bitterly about its TV shows appearing on Google's YouTube website without permission.

"The relationship between Google and NBC is thawing," Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay said.

Mike Steib, director of Google's TV advertising program, said the company had invested heavily in services to help advertisers more easily buy airtime and tailor their commercials using data from set-top boxes. For example, he said, an advertiser could run commercials on any program that mentions the Michigan Wolverines.

Google has similar efforts geared to selling radio and newspaper advertising.

Mike Pilot, president of NBC Universal Sales and Marketing, called the Google partnership a test designed to introduce the two companies to advertisers different from those they normally work with.

"We will be selling small amounts of inventory on a limited amount of our networks," he said. "We wanted to keep it manageable, and we want to see the results before we take the next step."

NBC also hopes to attract smaller advertisers that might not otherwise afford TV airtime, as well as large companies that advertise heavily online but infrequently on cable.

"It's a very wide spectrum of potential new clients for both companies," Pilot said.

The deal also covers local TV markets, and the companies will share research on consumer viewing patterns. The NBC and Google partnership will rely on data supplied by Dish Networks' set-top boxes. Through its deal with the satellite TV provider, Google TV Ads can report television usage data that enable advertisers to measure commercial viewership with more precision.

Some media companies and television executives have been reluctant to work with Google, which dominates online advertising. But the deal with NBC Universal could show a new willingness to experiment with Google to tap into new ways of generating revenue.

"Everybody right now is in a test-and-see mode for Google TV," said Caleb Wines, a senior vice president at ad agency Deutsch LA. "It sure has all the markings of next-generation media buying."

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jessica.guynn@latimes.com

meg.james@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Alana Semuels contributed to this report.

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