Peter Kafka

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NBC Says Live Online + Tape Delayed Olympics Are a Ginormous Success

Okay, people who are furious about NBC’s Olympics coverage. The network has thrown you a bone: On a press call today, NBC sports head Mark Lazarus said the company is watching the criticism it’s getting on Twitter and Facebook. And “some of it is, in fact, fair,” Lazarus said.


Hope so. Because Lazarus, backed up by NBC research guru Alan Wurtzel, spent the rest of the call describing the network’s coverage strategy — everything live on the Web, much of it live on some cable channels, and the glamour sports on prime-time tape delay — as a huge success.

Some of the stats you’ve heard before: Ratings are well above the 2008 Beijing Olympics; NBC now thinks it may break even or perhaps make a small profit on the Games, instead of losing $200 million, etc. And many of the numbers were new.

A sampling of data points, which the company said come from NBC internal research, third-party surveys and some studies being done by Google and comScore:

  • On Sunday, 43 percent of Americans said they had heard about some of the Games’ results over the Web before they saw them on TV. But NBC argues that this turns out to be just fine: 67 percent of people who knew about the results said they would watch, anyway — more than people who hadn’t heard about the Games.
  • On Saturday night, people who had watched livestreamed events that day were twice as likely to watch parts of the same events on the prime-time tape delay.
  • NBC has streamed 64 million streams over the first six days of the Games, and 29 million of those were live.
  • The most-streamed event so far was the women’s gymnastics team finals on Tuesday, which generated 1.5 million streams.
  • Roughly 60 percent of the streams are going to desktops and laptops, and the rest are going to mobile (NBC is providing apps for Apple’s iPhone and iPad, as well as Google’s Android platform).

I’ve asked NBC for a little more detail on some of the streaming stats, so if I get them, I’ll plug them in here later. [UPDATE: See below]

But again, the main point is that NBC thinks the Games are going swimmingly so far. The complaints you’ve been writing and reading about (oftentimes, you’re doing both, right?) are from a small part of the audience (or non-audience). Lazarus says: “The silent majority has been with us.”

Readers with access to Google will note that Lazarus was using language first used popularized (Wikipedia!) by Richard Nixon to defend the Vietnam War. And some of them will make hay with that. NBC figures that the rest of them will be too busy watching the Games to care.

Here’s the full list of talking points/data points Lazarus and Wurtzel shared with reporters today, courtesy of NBC PR.

AUGUST 2, 2012

According to a U Samp survey of 1000 viewers 18-54:
43% said they heard the results of Olympic Events.
Of those who had heard the results:
67% who knew the results said they were more likely to watch vs. 54% who did not hear the results.

According to a proprietary project with Google to measure the same individual’s media use across platforms:
Viewers who streamed live events on Saturday were nearly twice as likely to actually watch the Primetime Broadcast, and they spent about 50% more time watching than those who didn’t stream.

According to Omniture:
Nearly 28mm people have visited – 8% growth over Beijing.
Nearly 4.6mm people have been to the mobile site – double the number from this time in Beijing.
Two new platforms are drawing fans:
The iPad and iPhone apps have been consistently among the top five apps in the Apple Store and have been downloaded over 6 million times.
We’ve delivered 64mm total video streams across all platforms – web, mobile, tablet – a 182% increase over Beijing.
29mm of those streams are to live events, a 343% increase over Beijing.
Since the start of live streaming on 7/25 we’ve delivered 5.3mm hours of live video, already surpassing the total games delivery for Beijing
Number one stream to date is 1.5mm streams to the Women’s Gymnastics Team Final on 7/31


New Media Behaviors
The Olympics are actually changing consumer behavior.
The London 2012 Games are the first time the majority of website and app users have live-streamed content on a tablet, smartphone or online. According to a proprietary survey conducted by Insight Express:
Among tablet users, 76% are live streaming on a tablet for the first time
86% live streamed on a smartphone for the first time
Even an established platform like the web is seeing 36% of website users live stream online for the very first time
68% of visitors during the London Games did not visit the site during the 2010 Vancouver Games

Next Olympic Generation
These digital initiatives have enabled us to achieve tremendous growth in viewing by kids and teens. According to Nielsen data:
Total teens up 28% compared to Beijing.
Viewing by teen girls 12-17 up 52%, teen boys up 7%
Kids 2-11 up 33%

Social Media
Social Media is enhancing consumers’ interest, enjoyment and engagement with the games.
From a U Samp research panel of social media users 13-49:
82% say “with all the buzz I have become more interested in watching the Olympics.”
Two-thirds (64%) say “I’ve gotten more interested in these Olympics because friends and family members are actively involved in posting and tweeting about the Games.”

Power of the Olympics:
As an advertising platform:

The Olympics is an incredibly powerful and effective advertising platform.
Working with Nielsen IAG, we analyzed the performance of 82 commercials which ran in both the Olympics and in regular prime time programming. IAG surveyed consumers who saw the spot during Olympic programming, as well as consumers who saw the same commercial in non-Olympic programming. Based on over 3000 completed surveys, commercials seen in the Olympics delivered on average:
67% higher brand recall
96% higher message recall
31% higher “likability”

As a cultural phenomenon:
According to a U Samp panel:
59% say “I’m hooked on these Olympics”
44% are sleeping less because they’re watching more
40% stayed home all weekend
37% delayed doing their laundry or other household chores
36% are following the games at work

Final interesting fact:
“Archery is the new curling.” The numbers are huge.
Archery delivered an average 1.5mm viewers, the highest rated cable sport, beating out basketball.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus