SBJ/March 5-11, 2012/Olympics

YouTube to team with NBC on video for London Games

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Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

NBC and YouTube will team up to deliver the Olympics online this summer.

The Olympics rights holder has struck a technology and promotional partnership that will see YouTube provide the video player for NBCOlympics.com throughout the London Games.

Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
As part of the agreement, which is expected to be announced soon, YouTube will promote NBCOlympics.com on its home page and direct visitors to live and highlight videos of the London Games. On NBC-Olympics.com, visitors will view highlights and live events on a video player that is provided by YouTube and features the company’s black, red and white logo.

MSN provided the video player for the 2008 and 2010 Olympics, but its deal with NBC ended after the Vancouver Games.

NBC and YouTube declined to disclose specific terms of the new agreement, but digital media sources described it as a barter agreement in which YouTube provides the video service in exchange for the benefit of being associated with the Olympics.

The deal allows NBC to save money developing the infrastructure to support the massive amount of live video streams it will provide during the 17 days of the Olympics. Plus, it will benefit from having Olympic content promoted on YouTube’s heavily trafficked home page — in addition to exposure to the video-sharing website’s audience, which trends younger.

YouTube has more than 4 billion views a day, and 30 percent of its traffic comes from the U.S. NBC hopes many of the U.S. visitors to YouTube’s site will click on Olympics videos that take them to NBCOlympics.com, which will boost total traffic during the London Games.

NBC has not announced how many hours of live video it will offer this summer, but NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said that all events will be broadcast live online or on TV. During the Beijing Games, NBC offered more than 2,200 hours of live video coverage and more than 20 simultaneous live video streams at peak times.

“We had an opportunity to look at the landscape and ask, ‘What is going to work for us?’” said Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager of NBC Sports and Olympics digital. “YouTube makes sense. They’re a young audience, heavily focused on video and they had the technology to pull off a massive amount of video consumption.”

There has been a steady decline in young viewers for NBC’s broadcasts of the Olympics in recent years. The average age of a Summer Olympics prime-time viewer has risen by nine years since the Barcelona Games, according to data from Magna Global. Cordella and others at the network see the relationship at YouTube as a way to reverse that trend.

“That’s one of the big pros,” Cordella said. “You’re hitting a younger audience consuming through these mediums. To have a conduit into them is a key for us.”

During the Beijing Games, NBCOlympics.com set records for unique visitors, page views and video streams. It averaged 6 million users daily, who spent 20 minutes on the site when they consumed video, according to NBC.

While not offering estimates, Cordella expects those numbers to be higher this summer because of NBC’s increased digital coverage plans and the fact that the London Games will take place during work hours in the U.S.

YouTube executives hope to benefit from that traffic by providing a branded video player that cements the company’s position as a leader in online video and drives traffic to its other video offerings.

“Providing fans an enhanced digital viewing experience across the thousands of hours of live Olympic games content is a significant moment for Olympic competition,” Claude Ruibal, YouTube’s global head of sports, said in a statement. “We’re excited to partner with NBC to bring the London Games to the millions of fans across a broad set of digital platforms and devices.”

Ruibal has a long history in the Olympics. He worked for ISL and launched World Championship Sports Network, which offered streaming video of Olympic sporting events. He sold a stake in WCSN to NBC in 2008, and it later was rebranded Universal Sports.

Cordella said that NBC will strike other partnerships to support its digital media offering during the Olympics. He suggested that one area where it might strike a deal is in social media.

“As you can imagine in 2012, any digital plan has to contain a social plan,” Cordella said. “You can expect us to be a player in that, as well.”

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