SBJ/Feb. 3-9, 2014/In Depth

NBC’s digital approach goes well beyond streaming

NBC’s digital plan for Sochi will be as radically different from the network’s digital plan in Vancouver as the digital world of 2014 differs from the digital world of 2010.

“The iPad did not exist in Vancouver,” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said at a news conference last month. “Think about how much the world has changed. … One of the things we’ve found is that if you want to have the biggest event in television, which the London Olympics were, you need to use all forms of distribution and technology.”

A Red Zone-style channel called Gold Zone will provide live look-ins at events.
The view that NBC will push programming through all forms of technology appears to be the network’s guiding philosophy around the Sochi Games. As it did in London, NBC plans to stream every event live online — minus the opening ceremony — to authenticated users.

SBJ Podcast:
Olympics writer Tripp Mickle and SBJ Olympics editor Tom Stinson discuss some of the concerns and issues facing the Sochi Olympics.

NBC’s plan encompasses much more than streaming live events. The network will produce original programming for digital audiences around these events that will be available through its website and apps.

The network announced plans to have a Red Zone-style channel called Gold Zone that will provide live look-ins at events as they are happening. NBC hired Andrew Siciliano to host; he’s the host of DirecTV’s Red Zone Channel, which was the original channel providing live look-ins for NFL games.

Gold Zone will go live between 7 and 8 a.m. ET and run until 3 p.m. ET each day during the Olympics.

“We think the Gold Zone is simply another way in which the Olympics can be consumed,” NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel said. “For those who want a more lean-back experience and allow us to take you and walk you through what is cresting at that moment in Sochi is what this product is all about.”

Another digital offering will be an Olympic news desk, a hosted show online that will give periodic updates of what’s happening in London. NBC also will produce “Olympic Ice,” a 30-minute digital show that will run live at 5:30 p.m., on days when figure skating competitions occur. Russ Thaler will host, and NBC has hired figure skater Sarah Hughes as an analyst.

NBC has released two apps around the Games. Its NBC Sports Live Extra will have access to more than 1,500 events. NBC also has a highlights and results app that will allow users to call up timely programming. If, for example, Lolo Jones is about to compete in the bobsled during NBC’s prime-time coverage, the app will highlight stories NBC produced on the athlete from Beijing and London.

“A section of this app is the prime-time companion,” said Rick Cordella, NBC Sports Group’s senior vice president and general manager of digital media. “During prime time, there’s no content being streamed. You can pull this up and [view] the content we have produced at the right time.”

NBC is spending so much effort on its digital platforms for a simple reason.

“What we have seen is that the more consumption of the Olympics during the day, ultimately the more prime-time viewing,” Zenkel said. “As technology advances, so does the way in which we distribute our coverage.”

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