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The ‘crème de la crème’: 2024 Paris Olympics goes programmatic on Peacock

A runner at the top of a staircase uses a torch to light a fire at the top of a large megaphone.

Illustration by Nick DeSantis / Getty / Shutterstock / The Current

This summer, NBCUniversal is helping advertisers win gold with streamers.

For the first time, NBCUniversal is selling the Olympic Games programmatically. NBCUniversal, which owns the U.S. media rights to the Olympic Games through 2032, is opening up Peacock ads to be purchased programmatically for all streamed 329 medal events (representing the entirety of the 2024 Paris Olympics’ more than 5,000 hours of live sports).

Advertisers will be able to bid on the Peacock spots through a partnership with The Trade Desk to reach highly engaged audiences, whether they stream traditional track and field and gymnastics, or this coming Olympics' newer sports, like surfing and skateboarding. NBCUniversal announced the news at One24, the media giant’s annual technology showcase at its New York City headquarters this week, ahead of its upcoming upfront presentation on May 13 at Radio City Music Hall.

“The Olympics obviously is the crème de la crème. It’s the biggest live event of the year, and certainly within our entire portfolio,” Ryan McConville, EVP of ad platforms and operations at NBCUniversal, tells The Current. “This is going to open up the ability for small and medium-sized agencies and advertisers to access the Olympics. They’ve just never been able to do that before.” Already, Peacock has seen a 40% uptick in advertisers over the past year, says McConville.

The offering doesn’t stop at the Olympics. Advertisers will also be able to purchase spots programmatically on Peacock for the live coverage of the U.S. Olympics Trials and the Paralympic Games. These games will be Peacock’s largest live sports programmatic offering to date, the first being the World Cup in 2022.

Alison Levin, president of advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, says programmatic enables the marketers who want to buy in real time, and to optimize and measure as quickly as possible. Advertisers will be able to connect first-party data with three identifiers: The Trade Desk-developed Unified ID 2.0, Google’s Publisher Advertiser Identity Reconciliation or LiveRamp’s RampID.

“We’re taking back ownership of performance. We drive performance just as well, if not better than your Metas and your Googles,” says Levin, adding that NBCUniversal has a “larger living-room reach than anybody else, larger than YouTube,” with 90 million households. According to McConville, 97% of NBCUniversal content is watched on a big-screen TV.

A look at Peacock's main Olympics Hub screen showing male gymnasts next to a 'Watch Now' button showing "Men's Floor Exercise Final".
A look a Peacock's main Olympics Hub. Credit: Peacock/NBCUniversal

The effort comes as live sports continue to see spikes of popularity on streaming services even during the traditional offseason. Peacock itself has been ramping up its live sports content — from having 8,000 hours of live sports content in 2023 to live events on 300 days out of the year in 2024, according to McConville. The Paris Olympics marks the first time NBCUniversal will stream all the medaled events, after seeing a decline in linear viewership for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

These programmatic ads could also benefit from Peacock’s new approach in using Generative AI to power audience targeting and performance. NBCUniversal is pairing first- party data sets with over 300 AI-powered emotion-based segments to help determine the drivers of purchase behaviors and compare that to ad targeting.

“We used well-established behavioral science to map human emotion — things that describe motivational behavior like family values and empowerment — and asked the machine to map all the content and themes within it to see how people would react to that,” says John Lee, chief data officer at NBCUniversal.

NBCUniversal is also introducing a new measurement framework called One Platform Total Measurement that works alongside its One Platform Total Audience to merge viewership insights and outcome-based metrics together across platforms. McConville says NBCUniversal has over 300 different endpoints — from Peacock to the multitude of websites for its editorial properties. On average, McConville says NBCUniversal is reaching 40% more of intended households, and 28% more efficiently, according to the decreased cost of finding intended households.

“We’re taking back ownership of performance. We drive performance just as well, if not better than your Metas and your Googles.”

Alison Levin, president advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal

Not only is Peacock going programmatic, but NBCUniversal is revamping the platform for an entirely new viewer experience for its Olympics fans. The Olympics hub will feature ways to browse by sports and athletes, to track medal counts by country, and to schedule the games they want to watch. What is even more innovative is a new offering called Virtual Concessions, wherein viewers can purchase food and beverages straight through Peacock ads before or during events and have them delivered to straight to their doors. Peacock plans to roll out Multiview to future live events on the platform.

“Americans are rethinking their relationship with their TV,” says McConville. “It’s becoming a two-way interactive device.”

Finally, with the option to stream all the Paris Olympics events (with roughly 40 live events happening simultaneously), the viewer has a ton to choose from — so many that NBCUniversal thought, Why not be the first streaming app to let them stream multiple events at once? Therefore, Peacock is also introducing what it calls “Discovery Multiview,” which allows fans to watch four different events at the same time for sports like soccer, track and field, and wrestling. Streamers have the ability to move the frames around on their screens and dictate which one they want to listen to.

A look a Peacock's Multiview Olympics viewing option showing multiple videos on one screen of various olympic games.
A look a Peacock's Multiview Olympics viewing option. Credit: Peacock/NBCUniversal

The Current is owned and operated by The Trade Desk Inc.