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Google lands deal to sell ads on Bloomberg TV

September 25, 2008 |  1:45 pm

Bloomberg TVOn the heels of this month's deal to sell advertising on some of NBC Universal's cable networks, Google has hooked up with Bloomberg Television to sell some of its commercials, the companies said today.

It's another step in Google's effort to crack the television advertising market, a top priority for the Mountain View, Calif., Internet search giant.

Under the agreement, advertisers who use Google's automated system will be able to reach wealthy and influential Bloomberg viewers. (And when we say wealthy and influential, we really mean it: Bloomberg TV ranked first among cable networks in average household income, average individual income and value of owned home, according to MRI).

The business and financial news network with 50 million subscribers could attract a broader range of advertisers since Google's system makes it easier to target relevant programming. Google TV technology can tell advertisers which ads the audience is watching second by second. It culls that data from millions of set-top boxes.

Trevor Fellows, head of Bloomberg TV ad sales, said Bloomberg TV has been in talks with Google for the past year. The deal, he said, involves a "relatively small" amount of advertising time. Bloomberg TV hopes to collect viewership information that "enables us to understand much more about our programming strengths," he said, such as viewer preferences, say one anchor versus another, or shorter ad breaks versus longer ones.

Google would not say if it has any other partnerships in the works. "We believe our system is valuable," said Mike Steib, director of Google TV Ads. "We are out there full time offering this technology to new potential partners. We can't announce what we haven't announced. But I can tell you that we think these deals are of a good size and that there are good things to come."

Google TV AdsSteib also had positive words for Canoe Ventures, a project of the nation's largest cable providers including Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable to place targeted ads on television. Canoe has access to 60 million cable television households, far greater than Google.

"We view them very favorably," Steib said. "I think the television industry and the way that ads are bought have gone without a significant application of technology for a very long time."

Could this be a hint of a future collaboration? "There is nothing I can tell you right now about a deal with Canoe," Steib said.

A deal with Canoe would be a huge win for Google. It needs access to more television set-top boxes to gain a significant foothold in television advertising, said Ross Sandler, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets. So far, Sandler said, cable operators "are very apprehensive about providing their data to Google."

"That is the holy grail: Can they get the data?" Sandler said.

Google, which embarked on its foray into television advertising less than two years ago, has only had moderate success and has been searching for ways to broaden its reach. It sells some advertising time on Dish Network as well as on a small cable provider in Concord, Calif.

Google only reaches 12% of households in the United States, Sandler said. That's not a "robust enough sample to make this whole TV buying platform work," putting pressure on Google to craft a partnership with Canoe, he said.

Steib points out that Google already has access to millions of set-top boxes through its partnership with Dish Network, a satellite operator with national reach. "We are doing this at a scale that no one else is doing it," he said. "We would love to continue to add to that sample. We are actively engaging with multi-channel operators for ways to work together."

Television advertising is in need of this kind of radical revolution, said Canaccord Adams analyst Colin Gillis. "Television really needs to reinvent itself to have more relevant advertising that engages the audience," he said. "It doesn't do anyone any good to deliver ads for dog food to people who don't have pets or Pampers to people who don't plan to have a child."

He and other analysts view Google's partnerships with Bloomberg and with NBC Universal as positive steps toward transforming an antiquated system. Earlier this month, NBC Universal said it would allow Google to sell a relatively small amount of advertising time on cable networks such as MSNBC, Sci Fi and Oxygen. The partnership could be extended to other networks. The announcement suggested the relationship between Google and the television world may be thawing.

Google has been focusing quite a bit of energy on building bridges to Madison Avenue. Television executives and advertising agencies have regarded Google with suspicion in the past.

Google's Tim ArmstrongDuring a recent Google press conference, advertising chief Tim Armstrong said Google wants to replicate its success online by improving the quality of television ads, both for the consumers who view them and the advertisers who run them. "Television is a great medium that has been around for a long time and we are committed to it," he said. "We expect the depth of our partnerships to increase."

Sandler says Google is very serious about the television advertising market. "Internally, Google thinks that aside from display advertising, this is the next biggest business opportunity it has got."

-- Jessica Guynn

Top photo: Bloomberg TV. Logo and bottom photo of Tim Armstrong: Google

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