• YouTube completes massive VOD streaming effort in Sochi

    YouTube's Claude Ruibal
    YouTube today will finish streaming the Olympics live in 17 countries across Central and South America and offering video-on-demand services in 75 additional countries.

    The effort is one of the largest YouTube has undertaken for a Winter Games, said Claude Ruibal, YouTube’s global head of sports content. The company offered live streams of the 2012 London Games in 65 countries, but Ruibal said that the video-on-demand services it’s offering in places like Australia, Canada, France and other nations fits with the company’s business model.

    “We’re all about being a catch-up destination,” Ruibal said. “All of the countries where we’re catch-up, it’s close to real-time catch-up. There’s probably some delays. There are a few countries that won’t put up video-on-demand until after the Games.”

    YouTube and the International Olympic Committee declined to share details on what countries were streaming the most content. The two partnered last year to provide live digital broadcasts of the Sochi Games in South and Central America. Under terms of the agreement, YouTube and the IOC share in advertising revenue on the broadcasts.

    The Winter Games are less popular in those regions than the U.S., but Ruibal said that YouTube offers the IOC a way to distribute the content and reach a younger demographic than traditional broadcast TV.

    “If you look at the USA, the average age of a U.S. Olympic TV viewer is 35-plus or higher,” Ruibal said. “Our viewers trend between 12 and 25. If you’re any sport, and Major League Baseball launched with us last year, and one of their motivations was to have a digital offering that spoke to those 12- to 25-year-olds.

    “I’d like to think the IOC thinks it’s important to have great coverage like NBC offers, which is pervasive, digital, broadcast but at the same time, in a lot of markets, have good distribution on social platforms. I think YouTube is one of those social platforms that can really speak to the next generation.”

    Ruibal said one of YouTube’s goals after the Sochi Games is to begin adding channels that show other Olympic sports in markets where they aren’t distributed. A sport like handball, for example, has strong distribution on linear TV in Germany where it’s popular, but YouTube would like to become a distributor for that sport in the U.S. where it’s not as popular.

    “We become a good long-tail platform for a lot of those sports,” Ruibal said. “World Badminton Federation has been working with us, putting their live world championships on YouTube in markets (where) they don’t have distribution. I think we’re going to keep helping with that. I think the federations have an understanding that they do need to create their own vehicle speaking to consumers.”

    Tags: YouTube, Olympics
  • NBC on Friday has lowest-rated Olympic night in at least 20 years

    NBC finished with an 8.8 rating and 14.9 million viewers for Friday night’s Sochi Olympic coverage, marking the lowest-rated Olympic prime-time telecast in at least the last 20 years.

    Coverage on Friday night included gold-medal finals for women’s alpine skiing (slalom), men’s short-track speedskating (500 meters and 5,000-meter relay) and women’s short-track speedskating (1,000 meters). The comparable third Friday night during the 2010 Vancouver Games drew a 13.9 rating and 24.5 million viewers for coverage that featured U.S. short-track speedskater Apolo Ohno’s final race, as well as the final skiing race at those Games for Lindsey Vonn.

    The comparable night at the 2006 Turin Games drew a 9.7 rating and 15.9 million viewers for coverage featuring the figure-skating gala.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • NBCSN finishes with 3.9M viewers for U.S.-Canada hockey semifinal

    NBC Sports Network drew a 2.7 U.S. rating and 3.9 million viewers for the Canada-U.S. men’s hockey semifinal on Friday afternoon. While the rating was a hockey record for NBC Sports Net — beating out the 2.6 for last Saturday’s U.S.-Russia pool-play game — the viewership is down from that overtime game, which drew 4.1 million viewers. The semifinal audience also helped NBCSN to its best weekday daytime audience on record (6 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET). The game peaked with 4.6 million viewers from 1:30 to 2 p.m.

    Tags: NBC, Hockey, Olympics
  • Canada-U.S. hockey semifinal sets streaming record with 2.12M uniques

    Canada’s 1-0 win over the U.S. in the Sochi Games’ men’s hockey semifinal on Friday drew 2.12 million unique streams via NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app, marking a streaming record for NBC Sports. The figure could set a new mark among all sporting events for an authenticated streaming audience. NBC’s previous record was 2.11 million uniques for the non-authenticated Giants-Patriots Super Bowl XLVI stream in 2012.

    The Canada-U.S. semifinal passes the previous Olympic record set earlier in the week with the authenticated stream of Thursday’s Canada-U.S. women’s hockey gold-medal game (1.2 million uniques). For comparison, ESPN’s most-streamed event remains the U.S.-Algeria pool-play match from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which had around 866,000 uniques.

    Tags: Hockey, NBC, Olympics
  • NBC Thursday night down, but afternoon women’s hockey finale up

    NBC earned a 12.2 and 20.3 million viewers for Thursday night’s Sochi Olympic coverage, which featured gold-medal finals for ladies’ figure skating, women’s freestyle skiing (halfpipe) and men’s freestyle skiing (ski cross). Those figures are down from the comparable second Thursdays during both the 2010 Vancouver and 2006 Turin Games. The same night in 2010 drew a 13.6 rating and 22.9 million viewers, while the same night in 2006 drew a 15.8 rating and 25.7 million viewers.

    Meanwhile, NBC on Thursday from 12-3:30 p.m. ET averaged 4.9 million viewers for coverage that included the Canada-U.S. women’s gold-medal hockey game, marking the most-viewed women’s Olympic hockey final since the two teams met at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, which was aired in prime time.

    Tags: NBC, Figure Skating, Olympics
  • Facebook, McMorris top social media engagement as Games wind down

    Canada's Mark McMorris has been the most popular Olympian in terms of social media.
    As the Sochi Games come to a close, Facebook has passed Instagram as the social network with the most interactions, with 60 percent of total fan interactions. In second was Instagram with 32 percent, followed by 8 percent for Twitter.

    In a new report by Hookit, 885 international athletes were tracked on social media for the time frame of Feb. 4-20, and they combined to have nearly 25 million fan interactions across the three main social networks. The athletes have also combined to add almost 7 million new fans.

    The most popular athlete through the Games continues to be Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris. His Instagram dominance over other athletes is evident in the fact that he has nine of the 10 most popular Olympian photos posted to the site. He’s added more than 368,000 social media fans over the course of the Sochi Games.
    A closer look into the data compiled by Hookit (see below) delivers a good glimpse into the power of the different social media outlets by region. For example, McMorris has been the most popular Olympian with both new followers and fan interactions, with a majority of those on Instagram. Conversely, Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer and Slovenian alpine skier Tina Maze both see almost all of their fan interactions on Facebook.

    Popular U.S. athletes usually see more even distribution across all networks.

    Tags: Facebook, Media, Twitter, Olympics
  • USA Hockey remains most popular governing body in social media

    After two weeks of competition, USA Hockey remains the most popular governing body for the Sochi Games. The combined Facebook likes and Twitter followers for USA Hockey equaled over 58,000 new fans, more than doubling its closest competition. In second was U.S. Figure Skating, with more than 26,000 new fans during that time period. The U.S. Ski Team finished third with over 8,000 additions.

    The most popular social media property involved in the Olympics was by far the International Olympic Committee, which added more than 2 million new fans on social media. The combined outlets for NBC Olympics saw significant growth with over 500,000 additions, while the U.S. Olympic Committee added more than 200,000 new fans.

    Listed below are the combined Facebook likes and Twitter followers for the official pages/feeds of Olympic properties and U.S. governing bodies on Wednesday, Feb. 5, compared to Friday, Feb. 21.

    Olympics 5,564,970 2,359,652 7,924,622 7,448,887 2,501,786 9,950,673 2,026,051
    NBC Olympics 693,603 432,459 1,126,062 1,119,968 550,491 1,670,459 544,397
    Sochi Winter Games 188,014 105,570 293,584 438,994 272,538 711,532 417,948
    U.S. Olympic Team 2,520,861 436,900 2,957,761 2,578,267 581,883 3,160,150 202,389
    USA Hockey 265,569 105,021 370,590 280,221 148,521 428,742 58,152
    U.S. Figure Skating 43,546 34,587 78,133 52,905 51,862 104,767 26,634
    USA Luge 3,383 1,395 4,778 6,551 3,859 10,410 5,632
    USA Bobsled and Skeleton 9,537 3,859 13,396 10,518 7,246 17,764 4,368
    US Speedskating 13,152 5,905 19,057 15,038 8,131 23,169 4,112
    USA Curling 22,401 2,184 24,585 25,569 2,889 28,458 3,873
    U.S. Biathlon 2,090 3,427 5,517 4,460 2,979 7,439 1,922
    U.S. Ski Team 60,136 24,986 85,122 62,765 30,641 93,406 8,284
    U.S. Snowboarding 15,843 8,977 24,820 21,425 10,856 32,281 7,461
    U.S. Freeskiing 3,497 4,146 7,643 6,259 4,944 11,203 3,560
    USSA Nordic 5,119 2,225 7,344 5,451 3,183 8,634 1,290
    U.S. Freestyle Ski 5,735 954 6,689 6,259 1,324 7,583 894
    USA Ski Jumping 2,315 0 2,315 2,702 0 2,702 387

    Tags: Hockey, Media, Facebook, Twitter, Figure Skating, Olympics, NBC
  • NBC gets strong Wednesday night rating with Ligety, figure skating

    NBC finished with a 12.2 rating and 20.2 million viewers for prime-time Sochi Games coverage on Wednesday, marking the best Winter Olympic audience for the second Wednesday since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

    Coverage on Tuesday was highlighted by Ted Ligety winning the gold medal in the men’s giant slalom and the ladies’ figure-skating short program. Also airing were the gold-medal finals for women’s bobsled and men’s snowboarding (parallel giant slalom).

    NBC’s Wednesday night rating was up 3 percent from an 11.9 for the same night at the 2010 Vancouver Games and up 22 percent from a 10.0 during the 2006 Turin Games. Through 13 nights from Sochi, NBC is averaging a 13.0 rating, down 8 percent from 2010 but up 5 percent from 2006.

    Meanwhile, USA Network averaged 1.9 million viewers for the U.S.-Czech Republic men’s hockey quarterfinal on Wednesday afternoon. MSNBC averaged 480,000 viewers for the Canada-Latvia quarterfinal.

    Tags: NBC, Olympics
  • USOC to consider marketing changes to stringent Rule 40

    The U.S. Olympic Committee is considering relaxing its enforcement of Rule 40, a rule that prevents non-Olympic sponsors from associating with Olympians before, during and after a Games.

    The International Olympic Committee has plans to evaluate Rule 40 after the Sochi Games, said Timo Lumme, IOC director of TV and marketing services.

    “It’s a review not necessarily of the rule but of its application and enforcements by (national Olympic committees),” Lumme said.

    The USOC is supportive of making changes to the rule’s enforcement. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said the organization feels that it can protect the commercial interests of Olympic sponsors while also giving non-competing sponsors of athletes opportunities to highlight their support of Olympians.

    “If you look at the vast majority of our Olympic athletes, they have 16 days every four years to have their brand front and center,” Blackmun said. “We would like to find more ways for them to have commercial opportunities without ambushing corporate sponsors. We’d like to have an open dialogue about that.”

    Blackmun said some of the changes the USOC would like to include would be allowing non-competing sponsors like Head skis, which sponsors Ted Ligety, to congratulate the athlete they support after they compete.

    “It’s an open question (how that would work),” Blackmun said. “If there’s an ad that doesn’t have Olympic marks, images or terminology and doesn’t cause any confusion in the eyes of a consumer about whether the sponsor is behind the athlete or the Olympics, then we should consider that.”

    That position is a major change from the one the USOC held for the better part of the last three decades. Historically, it touted Rule 40 so much that athletes even scrub sponsors from their websites before the Olympics begin.

    But track star Sanya Richards-Ross and a number of other athletes attacked Rule 40 on Twitter and at a press conference before the 2012 London Games. The athletes’ position was that the sponsors who support them year-round should be able to support them when they’re competing in their most high-profile event, even if those sponsors are not official Olympic partners.

    The IOC and USOC have been talking about changing Rule 40 in some way ever since then. Doing so won’t be easy.

    “The challenge here is it’s so subjective,” Blackmun said. “If you look at an ad that doesn’t use Olympic marks but clearly is Olympic ambush, that’s not right and we want to protect our sponsors. But if an athlete has a long-term relationship with a company and they want to continue that and not put it on hold, that’s something we need to have a conversation about.”

    Tags: USOC, IOC, Olympics
  • U.S. Speedskating to undergo review after dismal Games

    U.S. team members initially pointed to Under Armour's suit for the team's poor performance.
    U.S. Speedskating plans to bring in outside experts and consultants and undertake a review of its preparation for the Sochi Games, said Mike Plant, the organization’s president.

    “We’re saying, ‘Let’s do a deep dive into this,’” Plant said. “We can’t do it internally. We have to bring in external resources.”

    Plant said that the organization will bring in sports scientists and sports physiologists as well as speedskating greats like Bonnie Blair. Collectively, they’ll evaluate what went wrong at the Sochi Games.

    The U.S. Speedskating team came into Sochi expecting long-tack skaters like Heather Richardson and Shani Davis to medal. Instead, the Dutch team repeatedly swept the podium. It’s the third straight Olympics in which the U.S. long-track medal count has decreased, and the overall medal count between long- and short-track races will be the U.S. team’s lowest since at least 1998.

    Plant compares the American’s performance to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. The Broncos had a great year, as U.S. Speedskating did, but they fell short on football’s biggest stage.

    The U.S. team’s failure to meet expectations was so confusing to team members that they initially blamed new suits developed by sponsor Under Armour before the Games. They had never competed in the suits and some felt like they were holding the team back. Eventually, U.S. Speedskating switched to an old Under Armour suit, but the results were the same.

    The Wall Street Journal put two stories about the suits on its front page, and the subject of the suits dominated conversation. But Plant said that the team is aware that the outfits weren’t the issue, and he hopes Under Armour will continue to sponsor the team.

    “Deep down we know it wasn’t the suits,” he said. “Under Armour is an American company supporting an American team. They’re not quitters and neither are we.”

    The U.S. Speedskating team still had a few more shots to medal when Plant spoke. The Atlanta Braves executive was en route to a meeting with the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce about the team’s planned relocation to Cobb County. He returned to the U.S. early this week and has spent his days working on the Braves and nights working on speedskating.

    Plant, a member of the 1980 U.S. Speedskating team, joined the organization as president less than a year ago. U.S. Speedskating was just coming out of a coaching abuse scandal, and it’s financial performance had left it in debt.

    As president, Plant set about overhauling the governance structure by writing new bylaws and shifting power from volunteers to board members, writing new bylaws. He hired former U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association chief marketer Ted Morris as executive director last fall, and Morris worked to sign new partners such as BMW, TD Ameritrade and Liberty Mutual.

    But Plant said the one thing he didn’t begin thoroughly evaluating was the organization’s sports programs and planning.

    “Did I focus the last nine months on high performance?” he asked. “Not at all. That (volunteer meddling) got us into this situation. Volunteers were getting involved in what the coaches were doing.”

    Plant said he doesn’t expect to get heavily involved in performance issues after the Sochi Games, but he hopes that the evaluation committee he creates to review the performance in Sochi will result in changes to how the U.S. prepares for Pyeongchang in 2018.

    “The last piece of the puzzle (performance) is what encourages me,” Plant said. “I’m confident we’ll make some announcements soon that show that.”

    Tags: Olympics
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