NBCU brings shoppable TV to Peacock, plans to license content commerce platform

Shoppable TV is coming to Peacock this year, and the streaming service poised to serve as a testing ground, in part to help prove out the company’s content commerce engine that parent NBCUniversal wants to license to third-parties, according to NBCU executive Evan Moore.

NBCU disclosed Wednesday during its One23 developer conference, which centered on capabilities within the One Platform technology stack, that it plans to extend functionality of Must ShopTV and its NBCU Checkout platform with direct integration on Peacock. That includes advanced shoppable product placement powered by new partner KERV Interactive.

NBCU Checkout launched in 2019 and already has plans to be integrated on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 devices. Integration with X1 is still in the build phase and should be hitting audiences within the next few months, according to Moore, SVP of Commerce Partnerships at NBCU. Shoppable TV on Peacock doesn’t have an exact timeline yet, but NBCU is aiming to have it in the market in 2023, Moore said in an interview with Fierce Video.

NBCU’s already activated shoppable TV campaigns on linear, which have mostly involved QR codes that direct consumers to a marketer’s site for purchase, but new innovations will take shoppable TV further for Peacock. Powered by KERV Interactive, the company’s tech identifies objects in video and makes them interactive and shoppable – with viewers served the exact or similar products within the One Platform Commerce Marketplace, and purchases possible via a remote.  KERV utilizes computer vision tech that will be trained on the marketplace of “the millions of products” NBCU Checkout carries.

With this, NBCU will be able to, in an automated way, identify exact and similar product matches that align with those in NBCU shows and are shoppable at the moment that viewers are watching at home.

“Then we’ll actually be enabling that true on-screen purchase experience that we’ve all kind of been imagining for the last couple of decades, frankly,” Moore told Fierce.

Traditionally product placement has needed a lot of lead time, meaning products placed in content might not be available by the time a show aired, and once they did there hasn’t always been a direct way to measure effectiveness.

Technology convergence

As to why now is the time to roll out the feature on Peacock, Moore told Fierce Video that it’s about key elements coming together.

Shoppable TV is something people have theorized about since the ‘70s, he noted, but “we believe that we’re at a moment of technological convergence here today.” That includes the proliferation of connected TV devices, cloud storage for payment methods, and advances in AI that have enabled automated and effective identification of when a brand’s products have shown up in a show. 

“We do believe that [shoppable TV] represents an important scaled opportunity, both for driving important business goals for NBCUniversal and for our brands, but also in extending the entertainment experience for consumers at home,” in finding an organic way to bring products they see in shows into their physical living room, he said.  

For now, shoppable product placement on Peacock is content-based, but Moore said NBCU is definitely looking at personalization down the line.  That could tie into another ad innovation - In-Scene Ads - and be bolstered by a new partnership with TripleLift, also disclosed at the One23 conference. On Peacock, TripleLift will drive dynamic product placement including 2D signage and 3D product placement in shows.

“You can imagine a world in the near future where we can combine the in-scene ad innovation together with our NBCUniversal Checkout experiences so we can actually both programmatically place a product in a show and then enable a consumer to buy it at home,” Moore said. So the product that appears in a show for one viewer might be completely different than the product for another viewer, based on what NBCU knows about the consumer, he added.

Timing is right on the consumer front too, as Moore said NBCU’s internal research shows shoppable TV is something viewers are not only interested in but wonder why it isn’t available yet. Consumers also are already very accustomed to the digital world where purchasing products from ads and content is usually just a click or two away.

That said, watching TV is a different experience than scrolling on mobile or the web, and infringing on the viewing experience with intrusive shoppable experiences is the last thing NBCU wants to do.

Shoppable TV not right for all content or brands

For shoppable TV NBCU already offers in-show QR code integrations and custom content around contextually relevant programming, and Moore said a lot of tactics end up working – but a key to success is not to disrupt the viewing experience. And not all content or brands are suited for a shoppable format.

The core tenant to focus on for success, he said, is to ensure the commerce activation is “extremely organic” to the viewing environment. The more NBCU can make a shopping experience an extension of the content and entertainment experience, the more successful it is with consumers and for meeting needs and goals of brand partners, according to the executive.

“What we’re definitely not trying to do here is really distract from the viewing experience or create something that pulls the viewer out of the story,” Moore said, noting that not all content or brands will make sense for shoppable TV. “It’s really about identifying really strong overlap between the content the viewer is watching, the brand that’s being featured in it, and the ability to shop that brand.”

Unscripted shows within the NBCU portfolio are a big area of focus for shoppable TV on Peacock, Moore said, and specifically those in the Bravo ecosystem (with next-day content now going to the streaming service). He noted success last year with a shoppable TV experience for “Love Island USA” where viewers could find products they saw contestants wear or use during the show.  From that experience, NBCU learned unscripted reality programming aligned well with shopping, and specifically in categories like apparel, fashion, accessories, personal care, beauty, and home goods as “aspirational products that people look for” and are inspired by during reality TV.

Top Chef and Project Runway are the two shows NBCU is looking at first to integrate shoppable TV this year. Moore said there’s already consumer behavior happening of users trying to find the products and brands they’re seeing on those shows, but have difficulty which creates friction for the buying conversion.  

“So we know there’s a chance for us to create a seamless purchasing experience there that adds a ton of value for both the brand and the consumer,” he said.  

And NBCU is interested in “the full funnel effect of shopping,” Moore said.  While orders and customer acquisition matter in a huge way, he noted they’ve also “seen double digit increases” in brand awareness and consideration from being featured in shoppable formats.  

As for NBCU, Moore said it isn’t necessarily completely set on how it prices shoppable TV compared to normal advertising, and in many cases the effort isn’t advertising driven. Rather, it’s often creating content and finding organic commerce opportunities, with NBCU generating revenue through the actual sales as opposed to sponsorship or a placement fee.

Licensing content commerce platform

Peacock is also a place where NBCU can test and prove out its shoppable TV experience and content commerce platform, Moore said, the latter which it wants to license as part of a broader strategy.

But shoppable TV and NBCU Checkout isn’t just a streaming innovation, as the integration on X1 will provide the ability to drive on-screen shopping from both streaming and linear programming. With various pieces now in place, licensing the content commerce platform will become more of a focus for NBCU.

“We’re really starting to put our money where our mouth is and not just claim that we’re a tech company, but actually build technology that other partners are really excited to use,” Moore said.

On Wednesday NBCU disclosed the first such partnership with The Daily Mail. The DailyMail.com is the first third party to license NBCU’s commerce platform, with plans to run a pilot of NBCUniversal Checkout that allows the website’s readers to purchase products within shoppable editorial articles for U.S. audiences.

For its larger commerce platform goals, Moore said the model NBCU is looking at “is to prove out the platform with our own properties and to figure out the technology kinks and content development kinks, and then look out to other third parties that would benefit from utilizing our knowledge.”

NBCU is not alone in wanting to carve out its own spot at the intersection of content, advertising, viewers and shopping. Roku is another platform player that’s been making moves on shoppable TV, including pilots with Walmart and most recently DoorDash (via QR codes that offer perks).

In a recent column for Fierce Video, Kearney’s Mike Chapman wrote that streaming could potentially change the game for shoppable TV as it hasn’t historically been easy to measure the impact of product placement – but digital platforms bring “potentially vast amounts of data on customer purchasing habits,” including what they bought and what triggered the purchase.

“This purchasing data, paired with analytics, can help streamers continually improve product placement, inform future content decisions, guide tomorrow’s merchandise releases, and more,” wrote Chapman.

Amazon might be the first to come to mind in this space as it has the benefit of proximity to transaction via its massive e-commerce business alongside a connected TV ecosystem.

Increasing competition in the TVOS space could also play into shoppable TV, alongside more data to drive insights. Roku recently decided to make its own smart TVs, something that VP Dan Robbins suggested can help boost and expand its shoppable TV efforts. And NBCU-parent Comcast is already moving to make Xumo-branded smart TVs, manufactured by Element, this year that leverage the company’s tech stack under a joint venture with Charter. Licensing its streaming and TV tech platform to other operators is also something Comcast has said it’s interested in.

While shoppable TV ads via QR codes are already available across NBCU’s portfolio, it’s still the early days on more advanced formats. Without disclosing specifics, Moore said NBCU has internal benchmarks for shoppable TV that it will be measuring against given its experience with QR code activations and other efforts.

“I truly believe this is the year that we’re going to see shoppable television at scale, at least from NBCUniversal,” Moore said. We’re “at this moment of convergence where all of the technologies are in place to make this happen and the consumer behavior and expectations of this ability are there.”