• NBC wraps up London Games with best Olympic audience since 1996

    NBC finished with a 17.5 rating and 31.1 million viewers for its 17 nights of taped London Games prime-time coverage, marking the best audience for the Summer Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta Games. The 17-night average was up 8 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from a 16.2 rating and 27.7 million viewers during the 2008 Beijing Games (see chart).

    In terms of total viewership across NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo and Telemundo, the London Games drew 219.4 million viewers, up from 215 million four years ago and marking a record for a U.S. TV event. London also marked NBC’s best Olympics in terms of margin of victory over the other three major broadcast networks (dating back to the 1988 Calgary Winter Games).

    Sunday night’s closing ceremony averaged a 17.0 rating and 31.0 million viewers, up 10 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from Beijing.

    Opening Ceremony
    Night 2
    Night 3
    Night 4
    Night 5
    Night 6
    Night 7
    Night 8
    Night 9
    Night 10
    Night 11
    Night 12
    Night 13
    Night 14
    Night 15
    Night 16
    Closing Ceremony
    17-Night Avg.

    Weekend daytime telecasts up 14% over Beijing

    NBC aired six weekend afternoon telecasts during the Games, averaging 12.1 million viewers, which was up 14 percent from similar coverage four years ago. The network also saw big gains for morning coverage, aided by this past Sunday’s gold-medal men’s basketball game.

    Also boosting morning audience figures was coverage of Andy Murray’s victory over Roger Federer in the men’s gold-medal tennis match. That match on Aug. 5 from 9-10:30 a.m. averaged a 5.5 rating and 8.2 million viewers. Those figure are higher than any men's Grand Slam final telecast dating back to a 6.2 rating for the Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi final in the 2002 U.S. Open. The Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova women's gold-medal match on Aug. 4 was also higher than any Grand Slam final dating back to a 6.1 rating for Venus Williams' win over Serena in the 2001 U.S. Open.

    The U.S.-Spain basketball game averaged 12.5 million viewers, marking the most-viewed gold-medal game since the 2000 Sydney Games (16.3 million viewers). Sunday’s game was also up significantly from 6.0 million viewers for the same matchup four years ago. Early morning coverage on NBC averaged 5.7 million viewers, with no comparison to Beijing.

    LONDON (000)
    BEIJING (000)
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    Late night
    Early morning

    Cable audiences up 2% across NBC's Olympic platform

    Olympic coverage across NBC Sports Network, Bravo, CNBC and MSNBC averaged 716,000 viewers, up 2 percent from Beijing.

    During its first time airing Olympic coverage, NBC Sports Network delivered its six top total-day audiences, and 11 of the top 12 days in NBCSN history came during the London Games. Coverage of seven U.S. men’s basketball games averaged 2.6 million viewers.

    The network also saw a boost to MLS coverage, which aired following Olympic coverage on July 28 and Aug. 5. The Galaxy-FC Dallas match (392,000 viewers) and FC Dallas-Timbers (405,000 viewers) mark the network’s most-viewed MLS games to date.

    Meanwhile, CNBC, which served as the home for boxing, averaged 449,000 viewers for coverage in the 5-8 p.m. ET slot during the Games, down 22 percent compared to boxing coverage in the same time slot during Beijing. However, CNBC's average during London marked the network’s best audience in that time period since the Vancouver Games, when CNBC featured coverage of curling. CNBC typically airs “Fast Money,” “Mad Money” and “The Kudlow Report” during that 5-8 p.m. period, which garners a much smaller audience.

    Tennis coverage on Bravo averaged 484,000 viewers.

    Salt Lake City is top U.S. market for seventh straight Olympics

    Salt Lake City was the top-rated U.S. market for NBC’s prime-time coverage during the London Games, marking the seventh straight Olympics the city has been at the top of the list.

    Salt Lake City averaged a 25.0 rating for London, up 8 percent from its average during Beijing. Denver tied Salt Lake City in 2008 for the lead among all markets, but finished ranked fourth for London. Denver’s 22.1 rating was down 4 percent from Beijing.

    Kansas City ranked second for London with a 22.5 rating after not ranking in the top 10 for Beijing. Milwaukee, Norfolk, West Palm Beach and Richmond also made the top 10 after missing out four years ago. Two North Carolina markets — Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham — ranked last among all U.S. markets for London.

    Salt Lake City
    Columbus (OH)
    Orlando-Daytona Beach
    San Diego
    West Palm Beach
    Dallas-Ft. Worth
    Albuquerque-Santa Fe
    Portland (OR)
    San Antonio
    Minneapolis-St. Paul
    Oklahoma City
    S.F.-Oakland-San Jose
    Hartford-New Haven
    Ft. Myers-Naples
    Las Vegas
    St. Louis
    Miami-Ft. Lauderdale
    New Orleans
    Tampa-St. Petersburg
    Providence-New Bedford

  • Yahoo finishes London Olympics with 3 billion page views

    Yahoo said it ended its coverage of the London Games with more than 3 billion page views across computer, mobile and tablet platforms, more than its traffic from the Beijing and Vancouver Games combined, and more than 150 million unique users globally according to internal metrics.

  • NBC's rating remains strong; NBC Network draws best audience ever

    NBC was averaging a 17.6 final rating and 31.1 million viewers for prime-time London Games coverage heading into Sunday night’s closing ceremony, up 9 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from the same 16-night period at the 2008 Beijing Games. Saturday night’s coverage finished with a 12.6 rating and 21.8 million viewers, up 22 percent from the same night in Beijing and marking the 15th time in 16 nights that average viewership has surpassed the comparable night four years ago (see chart).

    NBC’s 10 weekday daytime Olympic telecasts averaged 7.1 million viewers during the Games, marking the best average for that segment for any non-U.S. Olympics ever. Viewership during each telecast topped its comparable period during Beijing. The 7.1 million average was up 31 percent from Beijing and 37 percent from the 2004 Athens Games.

    NBC Sports Network finished with an average of 4.35 million viewers for Thursday’s U.S.-Japan gold-medal women’s soccer game, marking the network’s most-viewed telecast ever. The figure tops the previous high of 3.6 million viewers set during Game Three of the 2010 Blackhawks-Flyers NHL Stanley Cup Final. Additionally, the match drew 1.47 million streams on NBCOlympics.com, marking the most-streamed event in Olympics history, just ahead of the 1.46 million streams for the London Games women’s all-around gold-medal competition.

    Meanwhile, Telemundo averaged 3.6 million viewers for Mexico’s win over Brazil in the men’s gold-medal soccer match on Saturday morning, marking the network’s most-viewed Olympic event ever. And the CBC averaged 1.6 million viewers for Canada’s bronze medal win over France in women’s soccer on Thursday morning, which marked the team’s first medal in Olympic history.

  • NBC finishes with most-viewed non-U.S. Games closing ceremony

    NBC earned an 18.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the London Games closing ceremony Sunday night, marking the most-viewed non-U.S. Games closing ceremony on record. The overnight rating is subject to change when final numbers are released later today.

  • Analysis: London's old-school competence makes for a shining Games

    Four years ago, the Beijing Games ended with the city’s mayor handing an Olympic flag to the relatively unknown mayor of London, the mop-headed Boris Johnson. The flag tangled around him, and viewers worldwide, having just watched a polished closing ceremony that made Cirque du Soleil look like a three-ring circus, collectively wondered how London and its unkempt mayor could follow in China’s exacting footsteps.

    The answer came over the last few weeks when the city and its Olympic organizers hosted one of the most comfortable and logistically sound Games in the last decade. In doing so, they reminded the world that a Western nation and established city not only can host an increasingly complex and expensive event, but also get out of the way and let sports shine.

    The Olympics, it turns out, don’t have to be a nation-building exercise. They don’t have to be used as a megaphone to announce a new superpower like China’s arrival, or a vehicle to attract investment from around the world for an emerging nation like Russia or Brazil.

    By delivering venues on time and avoiding major issues, London 2012 showed that the Olympics can be about Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennis or Allyson Felix. And in doing so, they set a high bar for organizers in Russia and Brazil, who are already facing questions about hotels, security and flexibility in working with the international sports business community.

    With relatively few problems concerning venues and logistics, the London Games allowed the on-field exploits of its stars to dominate the conversation.
    “London put sport back at the forefront of the Olympic Games,” said Terrence Burns, president of Atlanta-based Helios Partners, a strategic sports marketing agency. “This is not about China. This is not about Russia. It was about sport, and it just happened to take place on the fantastic palate of London. There was a fear the Olympics had strayed from that.”

    Former Visa executive Michael Lynch said that returning the focus to sport made it the “best Games of our lifetime.”

    Jeff Diskin, Hilton Worldwide senior vice president of global customer marketing, put it this way: “China was such an over-the-top event, you had to wonder how any city could follow. London has shown its best colors. It has been a remarkable atmosphere. I always have high expectations for the Olympics, but everything about [London] exceeded my expectations. It has been overwhelmingly positive the feeling you see among everyone in every place. I’m happy for everyone who works in the Olympic movement.”

    Britons didn’t make drawing that conclusion easy.

    The four years leading up to the Games were clouded by austerity measures, dampened by three months of rain, overwhelmed by despair over traffic and doubts about London’s public transport system and, finally, obscured by news that a security contractor failed to fulfill its agreement.

    But those issues and the pessimism that came along with them faded once the opening ceremony began. The quirky and distinctly British show directed by Danny Boyle won over a skeptical nation and reminded millions of viewers worldwide what the Brits had contributed to literature and pop culture.

    The sporting performances that followed swept them away. Great Britain won more medals than it had since 1908, the first time it hosted an Olympics. The nation, and the world, also saw legendary, encore performances by Michael Phelps, who became the most decorated Olympian of all time, and Usain Bolt, who electrified the world with his speed and outsized personality.

    But it wasn’t just the winners who set this Olympics apart. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge saw his patience rewarded and his strategy validated when Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei sent female athletes to the Games for the first time.

    All of those stories dominated the front pages because the organizers of the Games overcame many of the issues that prognosticators thought would plague them. After a slow start, public transportation ran smoothly. Getting in and out of Olympic Park, even on the most crowded of days, never took longer than 15 minutes. And in an era of heightened security at the Games, the Olympic Park buzzed with the energy of more than 150,000 spectators each day.

    That’s not to say organizers didn’t err.

    The London Olympic Organizing Committee never got a handle on ticket sales. The website it developed with Ticketmaster failed to update inventory, leaving many Britons and international fans frustrated when they discovered that tickets that appeared to be available had already been sold. And empty seats re-emerged as a major Olympic issue during the opening days of competition when many accredited seats went unfilled, which only compounded that frustration.

    Sponsors, agencies and Olympic officials won’t forget the buses that didn’t show up to transport them to the opening ceremony or the over-reliance on a GPS system that rendered BMW’s VIP cars worthless.

    But those issues were outweighed by LOCOG’s nimbleness and good fortune. It included Tube passes with all of its tickets, which gave hospitality hosts an immediate plan B when buses didn’t arrive, and public transportation ran so smoothly that even Rio 2016 CEO Leo Gryner gave up on the BMWs and opted for the Tube.

    “The first two days were really rough,” said Jan Katzoff, executive vice president of Radiate Group, which works with 18 Olympic sponsors. “To their credit, they helped us attack the [transport] problem and fix it. From that point on, for our clients, it’s been one of the best operations I’ve ever seen.”

    Among the things organizers got right was its selection of venues. It placed sports at a host of iconic locations around the city, from Lord’s Cricket Ground to Wimbledon. Its biggest success was putting beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade, where women in bikinis and spandex tights played late into the night on the doorstep of the prime minister’s home at No. 10 Downing St.

    LOCOG also showed that it’s possible to build temporary venues like a blow-up basketball arena that don’t damage competition but do eliminate white elephants and control the skyrocketing costs of hosting an Olympics.

    “For me, one of LOCOG’s achievements is the way sustainability and legacy were built into the DNA,” said IOC member Denis Oswald of Switzerland.

    The city of London made for some of the most successful hospitality programs at an Olympics in years. Guests could spend a morning at Buckingham Palace, an afternoon at diving, dine at world-class restaurants like Mosimann’s and then walk through Trafalgar Square to watch beach volleyball.

    Sponsors, who used the Beijing Games to penetrate the Chinese market, showed they could still get value out of an Olympic sponsorship when the Games go to a mature market. Worldwide Olympic sponsor GE did $100 million in infrastructure sales, and IOC sponsor Procter & Gamble expected a $500 million jump in sales related to the Olympics. London 2012 partner Adidas chipped away at Nike’s lead in the U.K.

    “We’re really pleased with our business results,” said Marc Pritchard, P&G global brand building officer, who pointed out that the company was getting a 5 percent to 20 percent lift from Olympic displays in stores from the U.S. to Egypt to Russia. “The Olympics are working.”

    “The [business-to-business] play and [business-to-government] play continues to grow in a huge way for these companies,” said Rob Prazmark, CEO of 21 Marketing, who has worked on every Olympics since 1988. “From a business perspective, these Games may be the best I’ve encountered.”

    Sponsors and agency executives were quick to acknowledge that the issues they ran into in London were high-class problems compared with what the next four years might hold.

    Neither Sochi nor Rio have the hotel infrastructure necessary to host the number of hospitality programs that take place at an Olympics. And questions already have emerged about both organizers’ ability to manage the 2014 and 2016 Games, respectively.

    Sochi built a huge showcase in London’s Hyde Park for its sponsors and then charged spectators nearly $30 to enter. After few people visited the first week, organizers eliminated the tickets and made the venue free. But that was only after misjudging the appetite of consumers and limiting the exposure of its sponsors.

    Similarly, Rio 2016 organizers arranged a news conference to mark the date it will open the Summer Games in four years. It started 30 minutes late, one of the presenters wasn’t there and only Portuguese was spoken.

    Traffic and security also will be question marks in Brazil. Marketers who have already relocated to Rio spoke in London of 2 1/2-hour commutes to work and family members being held at gunpoint by masked criminals.

    All of that has created a sense of unease in the Olympic business community, which last week enjoyed one of its easiest Games to date.

    “No one should underestimate what a challenge this is,” said Darryl Seibel, the former U.S. Olympic Committee executive who oversaw the British Olympic Association’s communications department in London the last two years. “It’s a massive undertaking. Any city that goes into this has to do it with eyes wide open. Just how big an undertaking this has become has got to be something the IOC looks at.”

    What transpires in Sochi and Rio the next four years will go a long way to determining whether the IOC will.

  • Olympic Snapshots: How will the London Games be remembered?

    The London Olympics will be remembered for a host of things, most of them positive but some still to be determined. Here are snapshots of some of the lasting effects, good and bad, from the 2012 Summer Games.

    The Social Games

    Long before London 2012 began, it was heralded as the first social Olympics, and over the past few weeks that prophesy proved true.

    NBC credited tweets from the opening ceremony with helping drive its record-setting initial broadcast from London. Team USA saw engagement on its Facebook page soar and collected more than 220,000 “likes” for a highlight reel of gymnast Gabby Douglas. And gold-medal-winning athletes added thousands of followers in the moments after they won.
    There were negative stories, as well. Two athletes were expelled from the Games for alleged racist tweets, NBC faced backlash on Twitter when people registered tape-delay complaints using #NBCfail, and British diver Tom Daley had to deal with a cyber-bully exchange with a tweeter after failing to win a medal.

    No White Elephants

    London's Olympic Stadium
    Two weeks before the London Games, Reuters posted a slideshow of Beijing’s Olympic Park. Weeds were rampant, venues were padlocked and the entire area looked abandoned.

    London organizers came into the Games committed to leaving no “white elephants” behind. Of its eight permanent venues, it had legacy plans for six. For example, the Copper Box, which hosted handball, was designed to become a community center after the Games.

    And despite organizers’ and city officials’ struggles to find a permanent tenant for the Olympic Stadium, London set a new standard for developing facilities that have a life after the Olympics.

    From Blight To Bliss

    When London won the Games seven years ago, Stratford was a wasteland marked by buildings with broken windows and streets dotted with discarded appliances.

    The Olympics gave the city a chance to clean up that area of town and showed Londoners who had always avoided it that getting there wasn’t as difficult as they had always imagined.

    The Athletes Village will be converted into affordable housing, and by the end of the decade, London officials hope to have 12,000 more people living in the area.

    “Stratford was a wasteland,” said Gary Pluchino, IMG’s senior vice president and head of global Olympic consulting. “To see the river there without shopping carts and tires in it is amazing.”

    A Dose Of Humor

    Mr. Bean's appearance in the opening ceremony set the stage for a quirky, very British Games.
    Mr. Bean set the tone for one of the most humorous Games on record with his appearance in the opening ceremony. The more than 60,000 volunteers extended the laughs by mixing wry and satirical jokes into their efforts to direct traffic at Olympic Park.

    USA Swimming chief marketer Matt Farrell was walking up to the London Aquatics Centre one night when someone announced on the loudspeaker that in an effort to do a better job recycling, the water from the pool was also being used to flush the toilets.

    He paused and then went, ‘Nah,’” Farrell said, adding: “Everyone puts on the smiles and tries to be friendly at the Olympics, but they really had a sense of humor.”

    Need Tickets

    This was London 2012’s black eye.

    The ballot system it developed for tickets crashed the first time tickets were put on sale, discouraging many Britons from applying for tickets again. Many of those who did come back were able to select seats for an event on the ticket website but then were told they weren’t available when they went to pay for them.

    Ticketing — and, by extension, venues with empty seats — has been a recurring problem for Olympic organizers, and London was no different.

    “The systems for the Olympic Games in general are improving from Games to Games, but there are problems always,” said Sead Dizdarevic, who heads Jet Set Sports, an Olympic ticket and hospitality agency. “As long as they have this type of system, problems will continue.”

    International Flavor

    Union Jack flags dominated the Olympic Park, but there were more people attending the London Games from other countries than any Olympics in recent memory.

    People from Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and the U.S., among other countries, could be seen across the Park and outside every venue, from Earls Court to Wimbledon. They gave the Olympics an international flavor that surpassed most previous Games, thanks largely to the easy access to London from so many countries.

    “It’s so easy for people throughout Europe to get here,” said Darryl Seibel, head of communications at the British Olympic Association. “There’s a real blend of nations that you don’t get in every Olympic city.”

    Lack Of Ambush

    There was almost no noise about ambush marketing at these Olympics, which was refreshing to sponsors and marketing agencies.

    In the U.S., the U.S. Olympic Committee spent the last two years holding a series of workshops on ambush marketing and reaching out to officials in Washington for support if an incident arose.

    In the U.K., the British government passed tough laws preventing use of the five-ring logo and the words “Olympics” or “London Games.” Their efforts to make sure that shops didn’t illegally infringe on those rights, though, did result in a public backlash and concern that they became overzealous in protecting sponsors.

    “The intent was to spot the major brands like Pepsi and Nike, not the local florist or the baker or the butcher who wants to celebrate the Games,” said Michael Payne, an independent consultant and the former director of the International Olympic Committee’s marketing program. “LOCOG scored a complete own goal there.”

  • Catching Up With Martin Sorrell: Lasting legacy is 'London at its best'

    WPP CEO Martin Sorrell
    As the rest of the world today weighs in on the legacy of the London Games, the story of how hosting them benefited Great Britain shouldn’t be overlooked. Speaking last week, WPP Chief Executive Officer Martin Sorrell said the London Games provided a big boost to Britain’s brand worldwide and raised the spirits of its citizens. WPP agencies worked with 16 of 25 worldwide Olympic and London 2012 sponsors, and Sorrell said all of them saw benefits from their association with a Games that came off as strong, modern, intelligent and quirky.

    He elaborated on that and more during a conversation last week with SportsBusiness Journal Olympics reporter Tripp Mickle.

    You were in China in 2008. How do these Olympics compare?

    SORRELL: They were very different. Both were extremely good.

    Beijing was extremely well-organized, as London was. Beijing was more methodical and formal. London was warmer and clearly, more quirky.

    The opening ceremonies [in 2008 and 2012] were equally good. In China, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the scale, the technology and the difficulty. It was much more ordered. Much more militaristic.

    London was much more quirky, intellectual and full of inside jokes for people in the U.K. Having said that, Danny Boyle did a fantastic job.

    Was it worth the estimated $14 billion cost?

    SORRELL: It’s much easier for China or Brazil or Russia to justify. For fast-growing markets, one of the ways to reposition your country is through the Olympic Games, World Cup or Formula One. For a mature market like the U.K., it’s much more difficult to justify the infrastructure investment. But it accelerates the infrastructure investment. It drags forth airports, hotels and the likes.

    What will the London Games be remembered for here in London and the U.K.?

    SORRELL: There are two things the bid talked about: one was legacy for East London, which has been considerable. I know there are naysayers, but if you look at before and after, visitors are amazed by that legacy development. The question is do we continue to use it in an effective way.

    The second is the impact on youth. Will it encourage young people to be healthier in the aspect of their life and encourage them in life? I thought it was interesting whilst GB was losing on [penalty kicks] to South Korea, you had unpaid athletes … Mo [Farah], Jess [Ennis] and Greg [Rutherford] all winning gold, and we had our highly paid footballers losing on [penalty kicks]. I thought that was an interesting juxtaposition.

    There was a lot of grumbling coming into this. What has surprised you most about how the Games went?

    SORRELL: This must have been the first time the media got behind something in this country. A media member told me that the turning point was when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France the Sunday before.

    A lot of people were concerned about the opening ceremony. Part of it was relief, but more of it was genuinely being impressed by it. It didn’t have the scale of Beijing, but it did have some scale. You walked into the stadium and it was all of England’s green and pleasant land. … Everyone I spoke to said it did play well on television.

    There have been the blips. There was one tragic incident there with the bus driver and cyclist.

    How will they be remembered around the world?

    SORRELL: London at its best. Not just London but Weymouth and Eton Dorney. Britain will be seen as a country that can organize something extremely well, is quirky but has a good bit of humor. … The stadium was amazing. The torch lighting was incredible — to bring a new twist to it. It will be remembered as well-organized, well-executed and something of beauty.

    For example, the triathlon was very well done visually. The marathon on Sunday looked extremely good using all the tourist hot spots. Despite being a small country, it’s a country that hasn’t lost its touch.

    A decade ago, the Olympics were under fire for corruption. Now they seem to be on a run of over-delivering for sponsors and advertisers. How would you describe their health?

    SORRELL: Jacques Rogge has done an amazing job. There were concerns. There was a change in leadership. Jacques has done an incredibly good job in repositioning the Olympics. There are similar challenges for FIFA. There are similar challenges for Formula One. This is all about the professionalizing of sport. It has to be professionally run and carefully run. … It will become more and more important.

  • Prediction: London will be the last hurrah for tape-delayed Olympics

    During the first week of the Olympics, when #NBCFail was trending on Twitter, NBC executives were frustrated that the social media buzz focused on the tape-delayed broadcasts.

    They felt they were not getting enough credit for the strides they took to put content on digital and mobile platforms. The strategy of making every event available live online has never before been tackled during the Olympics. NBC’s extensive mobile apps have never been used for the Games, and the idea of quickly turning around highlights for video-on-demand never has been considered before.

    The frustrations were valid. NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics looks nothing like previous Games. NBC should get more credit for embracing online and mobile applications as much as they have this year. Still, there’s room for improvement. I expect NBC to make a few changes by the time the Winter Games in Sochi come around in 2014.

    It’s finally time for NBC to retire the idea that tape-delayed telecasts drive prime-time ratings.

    I know the Olympics’ prime-time TV viewership is on pace to set an all-time high. And I know it’s risky to make a bet on a $1.2 billion investment, which is what NBC paid for rights to the London Games.

    But all evidence suggests that prime-time viewership will not be hurt significantly by live coverage earlier in the day.

    Arguments for keeping the tape delay in place has the feel of the mid-1990s, when TV executives worried that putting too many events on cable would cut into prime-time telecasts. Later, TV executives worried that too many live events online would cut into prime-time viewership.

    Neither claim is true. NBC’s own research backs up my view. It has found that people are more likely to watch a prime-time tape-delayed telecast when they already know the results of the event. All the spoilers on Twitter and Facebook this year helped NBC market its prime-time telecast.

    Why not show an event like a marquee swimming race live on one of its cable channels? NBC could still tell stories and add context to its prime-time show.

    I predict that NBC will hold back fewer events for prime time from Sochi in 2014. The Summer Games in 2016 shouldn’t be a problem, since Rio de Janeiro is roughly in the same time zone. Who knows how we’ll be watching the 2018 and 2020 Games. But I don’t expect tape delay to be a big part of it.

    NBC’s online programming has not been up to par.

    It’s great that NBC has made every event available live online. But it’s not enough. The user experience is basic and far below the expectations I have for programming that carries the NBC Sports brand. Much of the video I’ve seen has no announcers and offers no replays. NBC should aspire to do more than a bare-bones online offering.

    Internet users have expectations when they watch online video, like the ability to pause, rewind or watch a replay.

    If you were 10 seconds late to the 100-meter dash — or if you experienced buffering during it — you were out of luck. You’d have to wait for NBC’s prime time. That’s not how Internet users are conditioned to watch video.

    In Sochi, I expect NBC to put more of its production values into its online experience, even something as simple as voice-overs from New York-based announcers.

    NBC should be proud of the amount of users it brought to NBCOlympics.com. It started slowly. I heard from many savvy Internet users early on about too much buffering and stopped video. One respected media industry veteran said his cable provider, Comcast, wound up doubling his Internet speed at no extra cost. After the opening weekend, the executive said the online video worked fine.

    NBC and its distribution partners fixed the problems quickly so that by the Olympics’ second week, I heard almost no complaints about the quality of its online offering.

    The two shining stars of these Olympic Games have been NBC’s video-on-demand offering and distributors’ authentication processes. Both worked surprisingly well.

    I heard virtually no complaints from people logging into NBC’s online coverage. Distributors, like Comcast, made it simple and easy for its subscribers to authenticate. By the time Sochi rolls around, authentication will not be an issue. This is a big step forward for TV Everywhere.

    Video-on-demand also has been a pleasure. My distributor is Comcast, which makes highlights from every event available by the time I wake up in the morning. My managing editor has Time Warner Cable. He made a good suggestion that the video-on-demand system should show, for example, the entire gymnastics program in addition to cutting individual highlights. This would enable him to watch longer, without having to navigate through VOD every two minutes.

    But that’s a minor quibble. By Sochi, I expect VOD to offer more content and allow users to navigate it easier.

    John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

  • FoxSports.com, USA Today benefit from Olympic ‘ambush broadcasting’

    You’ve heard of ambush marketing. But media companies in London performed a sort of ambush broadcasting. London was littered with media companies that profited from the Olympics without holding any of the rights.

    FoxSports.com had, perhaps, the highest profile of any non-rights holder. From its set atop the Westfield Mall, which gave perfectly unobstructed views of Olympic Park and the Olympic Stadium, the website invested more money and devoted more energy around the Olympics than ever before.

    Thanks also to a deal that highlights FoxSports.com stories on MSN’s home page, FoxSports.com saw record-high traffic during the first week of the Games. FoxSports.com logged 73 million visits during the first full week of the Games (July 29-Aug. 4). That number is the highest the site has ever seen for a week and more than tripled the number of visitors to its Beijing site in 2008.

    Fox had told advertisers that it expected 40 million unique visitors during the Games.

    During the Olympics opening weekend (July 27-29), FoxSports.com’s Olympic section had almost 11 million unique visitors. The official rights holder, NBCOlympics.com, had 7.4 million unique visitors during the opening weekend. Traffic for the Olympics’ second week will be released Tuesday or Wednesday.

    “With our partnership with MSN, we were obviously going to get more traffic than we’ve ever had before,” said Rick Jaffe, senior vice president and editor-in-chief of Fox Sports Interactive Media. “We’ve done really well on the advertising side. We’ve been doing great on the traffic side from video and page views.”

    The Fox Sports set overlooked Olympic Park.
    Jaffe shares the set atop east London’s Westfield Mall with sister company Sky Sports, a British TV station. He instantly fell in love with the site, located just outside of the Olympic Village, when he saw the sightlines he would have.

    “It’s that instant credibility factor,” Jaffe said. “The BBC’s shots are no better than ours, and they do have the rights. This puts you right there with the people who are actually doing it at the big-time level: the BBC, NBC. We’re right there with them.”

    Without online video rights, FoxSports.com decided to focus on the four most popular Olympic sports in the United States: swimming, basketball, gymnastics and track and field. Jaffe hired a former gold medalist from each sport to provide commentary throughout the Games.

    FoxSports.com saw a lot of traffic, for example, after Michael Phelps won his record-setting 22nd medal. FoxSports.com produced an online program where the gold medalists discussed whether Phelps was the greatest Olympian.

    Dave Morgan, USA Today Sports Media Group’s senior vice president of content and editor-in-chief, helped FoxSports.com develop its Olympic strategy. FoxSports.com hired him as a consultant before he took the USA Today job last year.

    USA Today, which had about 80 staffers in London, followed a similar strategy as FoxSports.com, even if it didn’t have as grand a studio set.

    “For people that watch the great production that NBC does, they’re still going to go to the TV for that. NBC’s going to have the highlights,” Morgan said. “We don’t necessarily need to compete in that area. It’s available for the audience. We don’t own it. And there’s nothing we can do with any of that to differentiate from the rights holder. … People are looking for something else. If all they are looking for is highlights, we’re out of that game anyway. We can tell by video consumption that’s not all they’re looking for.”

    Instead, Morgan’s team focused on story-telling and future events, rather than spending a lot of time recapping events that already took place.

    “By taking that approach, we get out of the biggest problem with video — and this is why NBC has thousands of people here — and that’s the quick turnaround,” Morgan said. “If we spend all of our time getting a videographer and a host and a gymnastics expert and a gymnastics reporter together to talk video about what just happened in team qualifying, by the time we get that up, it’s not the story anymore.”

  • NBC: Surrounding consumers with programming helped drive prime time

    In U.S. media circles, the London Games will be known as the first truly digital Olympics. For the first time, NBC streamed every event live online, and NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus believes the online effort helped drive interest around the Games and pumped up the network’s prime-time ratings.

    “We have believed from the beginning that a multiplatform approach to surrounding consumers with Olympic programming leading to a prime time on NBC would make people want to gather even if they knew the results,” Lazarus said following the opening weekend of London 2012. “That seems to be playing out.”

    At press time, the London Games were on pace to set a viewership record on broadcast TV and cable TV.

    NBCOlympics.com an online hit

    NBC released numbers behind its extensive digital offerings through the London Games’ first week.

    1.117 billion page views

    102.6 million total videos streamed

    45 million live videos streamed

    7.6 million devices authenticated by cable, satellite and telco customers

    Source: NBC
    But they already obliterated digital numbers that came out of Beijing. The 102.6 million total video streams in the first week was higher than all of Beijing. The 45 million live video streams was more than three times higher than Beijing.

    Visitors to NBCOlympics.com were spending 27 minutes per visit on the site, which more than doubled the time spent during the Beijing Olympics.

    NBC was able to sell $60 million worth of ads around its digital offering. The network doesn’t sell digital ads on its own; instead, they are packaged with a more traditional TV buy.

    “We have more live event programming [on television] going against itself than ever before. It’s all above where it was historically,” Lazarus said. “Simultaneous to that, we are streaming everything live. Every frame of every event that’s taking place at these Games is being streamed and available. I think it’s a technological feat that’s never been tackled.”

    It’s too early to determine how this will play out in Sochi or Rio, Lazarus said. But based on the numbers coming out of London, it seems certain that NBC Sports will continue to build its digital business around the Olympics.

    “It’s an evolving technology. It’s an evolving business. It’s evolving consumer habits,” Lazarus said. “Invariably, what we do in Sochi will be different from what we’re doing here. We will evolve our coverage. I haven’t thought of how. Nothing should stay the same from Games to Games.”

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