SBD/August 16, 2012/Media

NBC Sports Network Scores With Olympics, Now Seeks Way To Sustain Audience

NBC Sports Network "has been a blip in a universe dominated by ESPN," but during the London Games it was "temporarily transformed," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The net's viewership "swelled sixfold, to 977,000 a day," marking an audience equivalent to the "one CNN gets on election nights." NBC Sports Group President Jon Miller said, "This has exceeded all our predictions." But, Sandomir writes, until the '14 Sochi Games, the net "returns to reality, meaning a regular schedule that has experienced reduced prime-time viewership" in '12 compared to last year. Most of the net's "new additions are studio shows and not the live-action sports that NBC Sports Network so desperately needs." There are also "no defining personalities among the channel's regular hosts and game announcers." NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said, "We all know this is a five-year plan to make it a bigger sports network. No one here believes, 'You did the Olympics, now we expect your ratings to go up 20 percent.' I'm hoping we get more people to sample the network" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/16). 

STREAM-LINED: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Miriam Gottfried writes for NBC, "a more remarkable feat" than the net's ratings "may have been its apparent success" with live streaming the London Games. NBC Sports indicated that pay-TV customers "registered 9.9 million devices on NBCOlympics.com or on the NBCOlympics Live Extra app for mobile devices -- believed to be the most ever for a single, 'TV Everywhere' event." NBC's experience also "demonstrated the rising importance of online streaming to paying cable subscribers as a way of retaining customers in the face of so-called cord cutting." While streaming content across digital devices to paying cable subscribers "isn't an antidote to cord-cutting," NBC's Olympics experience "shows networks may have ways to manage the transition away from traditional TV viewing" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/16).

NEIGHBORS TO THE NORTH: The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes, "Canadians couldn’t get enough of the Olympic coverage live and on tape via the TV consortium of Bell and Rogers." The Consortium indicated that "viewership was up" 88% over the '08 Beijing Games. TV viewership in Canada increased 13% "during the Games versus the same days last year." The ratings "justify CTV’s gamble in borrowing the Games’ rights from CBC for four years." But it likely "still won’t turn the 2010/ 2012 Olympic package (bought for $153-million) into a financial winner." Had the Consortium’s "healthy digital numbers produced similarly healthy revenues, they might have broken even" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/16).
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