London Olympics: Live Video Streams Intended As ‘Additive,’ May Be More Valuable Than Broadcast

The Summer Olympics is still primarily a major broadcast event and is expected to draw some $3 billion in related ad spending — $1 billion of which could go directly to NBC Universal, which has the TV rights to the global games. But the viewers will have unlimited amounts of live viewing options through mobile apps as well as through PC-based online.

NBCU has sold about $60 million worth of digital ads,  AdExchanger has learned. Although that’s a pittance compared to the overall broadcast haul, it’s far above the $20 million in ads NBCU sold in 2008 for the last summer games in Beijing.

NBC Olympics, the division of the NBC Sports Group that’s the hub for running the show on TV and online, released two apps built by and powered by Adobe to offer authenticated coverage — users will have to sign in with their pay TV provider for access to the live streams of more than 3,500 hours of content, including all 32 sports, every athletic competition and all 302 medal events.

The second app, simply titled NBC Olympics, will provide short-form highlights, TV and online schedules, live results, columns and the new Primetime Companion feature — the ultimate complementary, second-screen experience for NBC’s nightly primetime Olympic broadcasts. And both will feature a significant amount of ads, which will serve as one of the biggest tests to date of the viability of “second screen” viewing and advertising.

NBCU’s confidence that offering total live streaming wouldn’t compromise TV viewership and ads is based in part on its experience with the Super Bowl in February, when it offered a simultaneous live-stream and broadcast of the big game. The network claimed a new record with 111 million viewers of NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI, and the first-ever live stream of the big game in the U.S. attracted over 2 million online viewers.

NBCU’s ability to attract certain kinds of online media consumption — online viewers took in 78.6 million total minutes  of the four-hour broadcast — suggested that digital is still about snackable content or checking out additional angles or segments versus TV, which is the main choice.

Agencies watched the Super Bowl activity closely.

“With the help of our data partners, we were able to conduct a detailed, minute-by-minute analysis of Super Bowl XLVI this year,” said Brian Hughes, SVP, Audience Analysis Practice Lead, Magna Global, told AdExchanger.  “What we learned is that tentpole events provide an opportunity for synchronized mass reach and real time responses in the form of social chatter, search activity, the use of apps, and other forms of real-time participation.  While these arenas can certainly extend the life of TV ads, there is a lot of room for unique executions as well.”

In an interview with AdExchanger, Ashley Still, director of product management for Video Solutions at Adobe, said that 97 percent of all households that pay for TV can access the live streaming content. “That puts the experience, for both digital users and advertisers, on a more equal footing,” she said. “We envision the digital experience to still be largely as a companion to the broadcast. But it allows both to do what they do best and with that, will appeal to marketers and viewers for something more complete.”

Though the intended affect of the mobile apps and streaming video is additive, Magna’s Hughes believes  that the differences in viewing habits between TV and online will demonstrate that digital has some obvious advantages over broadcast.

“Through our custom media trials (conducted with the help of our colleagues in the IPG Media Lab) we have found that online video ads tend to garner more attention that the average commercial on live TV, and the 2012 Games will be different from the Super Bowl in that some events will be streamed live before they ever air on television,” Hughes added. “We consider attention to be the most valuable commodity in a today’s world of total mediation, so it’s a pretty compelling offering.”

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