NBCUniversal Places Its Bets On ‘ShoppableTV’


With great fanfare, NBCUniversal in May 2019 launched a new feature that it believes will increase conversion rates for advertisers.

How? QR codes airing during specific moments in TV shows, which would take viewers directly to an e-commerce site, is the solution to spot avoidance the owner of NBC and Telemundo is investing in.

A test on TODAY supposedly generated thousands of scans and, as TechCrunch reported, “six figures in sales ‘within minutes.'”

Now, ShoppableTV is officially live across NBC, NBC Sports, Telemundo, Bravo, E!, CNBC Prime and USA Network.

In a Monday communique, NBCUniversal confirmed the “official expansion” of ShoppableTV across its full portfolio of cable and broadcast TV offerings. “With Shoppable TV, we’ve experienced immediate scale and measurable impact, all while adding to the consumer experience,” the company said.

It noted that content and technology are among its “broadest investments,” and that “technology is enabling people to consume great content more easily AND make it easier for businesses to work with us.”

Hence, the introduction of QR codes within programs.

“Consumers today have an all screen mentality, and brands need technology-based solutions to connect in a meaningful way,” NBCUniversal said. “For us, this means everything from using AI to pinpoint the most contextually relevant point in a program for an ad, to collapsing the purchase funnel by bringing together all screens for advertisers.”

But, just who uses QR codes? For NBCUniversal, the answer is many.

“We have this vision, and because of that we need to reconsider every commercial innovation,” it says. “People have changed, technology has evolved, and businesses have different needs. We’ve put significant investment into the viewer experience. When we make the experience better for viewers, it creates a more impactful experience for brands. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Since its initial launch, NBCUniversal has activated with Lacoste during the French Open, Walmart in partnership with TODAY, Roli during NBC’s Songland and Zwift for the Tour de France.

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATIONNBCUniversal got a lot of attention from the trade press on Monday for something we see more as hype than a solution. QR codes? Seriously … THIS is what is going to solve the drain of dollars, and viewers, to Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu and what’s to come in the OTT universe? Please … It also doesn’t really help local broadcast TV, since it’s a solution for networks. With retrans fee increases designed to offset lower advertising revenue, TV needs to do better than on-screen interruptions that supposedly generate sales boosts. Shorter spot breaks, shorter spots and full-on prime-time sponsorship takeovers are the way to go, unless “creatives” actually get creative and stop giving us genuinely stupid and infantile commercials. We recently spent a weekend in the Bahamas, with access to Canada’s CTV. The work there is superior to what is shown in the U.S. We didn’t mind a commercial break, so long as it wasn’t so lengthy. A QR code during an NFL game? Ain’t nobody got time for that …. Is ‘ShoppableTV’ A Future Hit, Or Just Hype? We believe it is the latter.