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NBCU Balances Viewer Preferences with the Need to Monetize

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What do people want in online content? They want Kardashians.

That (perhaps dismal) assessment was given by Gerald Abrahamian, vice president of digital operations for NBCUniversal and E!, when speaking at the Streaming Media West conference currently underway in Los Angeles. What Abrahamian meant is that short snippets of Kardashian shows posted online were doing amazingly well for his company. People eat it up, he said, on any format.

“We’re just seeing it across the board,” said Abrahamian. Whether video is on desktop computers or mobile devices, or whether it’s shown by syndicated partners, his company is seeing growth in all areas. “You’re just seeing more and more consumption of video,” Abrahamian added. Especially snackable clips.

The key to attracting eyeballs to that content is rolling out the product in a cohesive way, to better serve the brand. People like buying into a brand, and selling a brand is easier than selling a site or a show, said Abrahamian. The E! Network creates a high value experience, he said, and is looking for high value advertisers to go along with it.

As Abrahamian’s panel was on balancing the needs of viewers and the need to monetize, he gave his company’s own formula for serving ads. Generally, NBCU serves viewers three or four videos before sending them another ad. The company rarely accepts 60-second online ads, far preferring 15-second ads. When viewers get fewer, shorter ads, they watch longer. NBCU’s analytics show that when the company increases the number of ads, views trail off.

“We’ll make more if we have more video views,” said Abrahamian.

To get those kinds of positive results, Abrahamian sometimes has to say no -- or at least maybe -- to his ad sales team. Still, he thinks he’ll see more growth overall if viewers aren’t driven away by an overabundance of ads.

“We’ve been in the video space for a while. You can see the video numbers dwindle when you spike up the ad load,” said Abrahamian. Three to four videos is his company’s sweet spot, he added.

For the E! news show, which is all celebrity journalism, finding the right advertiser is a challenge. The network considers sponsors carefully, so as to find ones that fit the brand.

“It’s better to find the right advertiser with the right product, and that takes time,” said Abrahamian.

Broadcasters also need to consider how viewers are watching that content when balancing their needs. For example, for viewers on slower mobile connections, Abrahamian shows fewer ads, so as not to drive them away. He’s looking forward to the day when 4G/LTE networks close the gab between desktop and mobile performance.

The end goal for much premium online video is getting viewers to watch the full program when it’s broadcast on TV, since networks make far more money that way. While some viewers prefer apps for mobile video and some prefer web pages, NBCU tries to provide the same experience through both. “If you create a great user experience, people will come back,” said Abrahamian.


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