When Will The Olympics Catch Up With How We Consume Media?

bryceclemmerOn TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in programmatic TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Bryce Clemmer, co-founder and CEO at Vadio.

As soon as the opening ceremonies at the Summer Olympics started a few weeks ago, a chorus of angry voices emerged on social media. In an age when much of the media we consume can be personalized and accessed on demand, they raged against NBC’s decisions to broadcast sporting events on delay, frequently cut to commercial, focus mostly on US athletes and take a hard line against any reposting of Olympic content on Twitter.

Many said events were spoiled because the results were released via social media before they aired on TV, while others complained that great stories were being ignored simply because athletes were non-Western, or the sports in which they competed didn’t draw huge TV ratings.

For many years, the Olympics were an easy prime-time cash cow – block out a few hours a night for popular sports, intercut with some heart-tugging stories and expensive ads and watch the money roll in. But in 2016, that simply won’t work, and moving forward it will be even harder to keep a younger generation engaged because the experience is so antithetical to how they want to consume content.

For marketers, now is the time to start thinking about 2018 and 2020 in terms of where to place their branded content. Simply buying a big chunk of TV ads in prime time will soon only be effective in reaching Luddites; it’s time to start looking at creating branded experiences on social media or creating great native content that will send users to a brand’s site. Porting over an old strategy, like banner or pre-roll video ads, bolting it onto new content won’t work. Marketers need to think about how they can best integrate with social content without being overbearing.

At the 2018 Winter Olympics and certainly by the 2020 Summer Games, consumers simply will demand a very different experience. A study just released shows that already 65% of the US population has a connected TV at home, which means controlling the experiences is becoming a fundamental expectation.

Hopefully NBC will be open to change after the backlash this year, because it could potentially offer something amazing for the next Olympics. Rather than setting the agenda, NBC could give viewers the chance to decide which countries, sports and athletes they want to see and create the first immersive Olympic experience.

Instead of fighting social media, NBC should embrace it and partner with social networks to share content, create excitement and make sure every athlete’s’ story is told. This would let people choose their own rich Olympic experience, letting them feel like part of the whole event while also serving them content they know they’ll love.

In an increasingly global world, people are interested in stories of many athletes, based on their own ethnic backgrounds, the countries they have visited and where they have friends and relatives – not just those select few who represent the US. Enabling people to select and create channels for a wide variety of athletes from various countries and sports would deepen the global connection the Olympics are supposed to foster in the first place.

And while virtual reality and augmented reality are both emerging technologies today, they could well be more mainstream in just a few years and offer a whole new way to experience the games. Imagine flying through the pool as if you were Katie Ledecky or chasing Usain Bolt down the track, and it’s clear how that’s much more amazing – and arguably more valuable – to both consumers and advertisers than simply watching on TV.

For brands, virtual reality and augmented reality are the hottest topics out there; virtual reality and 360 content have a much higher click-through rate and rewatch rate than static content. Because the Olympics holds so many compelling and exciting moments, not to mention great narratives, it’s ideal for creating immersive content and positioning a brand as innovative.

What NBC can’t keep doing is expecting consumers to behave like they did 10 or even five years ago. Curated video experiences are the new normal, and pushing back against that behavior will only make viewers angry and frustrated. Millions of dollars are on the line, but allowing people to choose their own adventure doesn’t mean a loss of revenue. An engaged and happy consumer is much more valuable than someone who just wants to watch the marathon and not cut to commercial for two miles.

If the next winter or summer Olympics can be interactive and personalized, it could be a great step forward. If it remains stuck in old media models, it risks being forgotten. A happy and engaged customer will be more likely click through to learn more or, better yet, purchase a product than someone who is annoyed and just wants the ad to go away so they can finish watching a race.

Follow Vadio (@wearevadio) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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