KEYNOTE: NBC OLYMPICS: EXPLORING A CULTURAL SHIFT

The LiveFronts kicked off on October 25th with a keynote from Jim Bell, the Executive Producer of the Olympics on NBC. Bell, a veteran producer of every NBC Olympics since Barcelona in 1992, was named executive producer of the games in 2012. Bell said the 2016 games—challenges from Zika aside—were NBC’s most profitable games to date.

And, with over 7,000 hours of content created and shared, these were also the most available and most consumed Olympics ever. All in all, Bell said there were over 200 billion minutes of Olympic content consumed. This boon in content availability and consumption also earned NBCU $250 million dollars, which is important when you consider that NBC paid $1.2 billion to the International Olympic Committee for the rights to the game.

“There are a lot of ways to get this content out and people are interested in engaging in it,” Bell said. In examining the mix, Bell said he was shocked to find that only 3% of the content was consumed digitally. Despite the growth of mobile since the last games, a full 97% of Rio content was still consumed on linear TV across broadcast and cable, a fact that was “pretty amazing” to Bell.

In an effort to reach “the elusive millennials” thought to be less drawn to linear TV, NBC established partnerships with Snapchat, Buzzfeed, and Facebook. While roughly 3 billion minutes were live streamed—mostly on smart TVs—the millennials did show up on the traditional broadcasts as well, making up 17% of the audience; for comparison, a regular show has a 10% millennial audience, meaning the Olympics boasted a 70% increase over the average.

In order to achieve the tone millennials expect on Snapchat, NBC handed over their Olympic Snapchat coverage to Buzzfeed, who Bell says was able to do a “better job at communicating with [them].”  These efforts reached 33 million users—90% of whom were under the age of 35—who spent 192 million minutes watching 1.9 billion snaps.

While Bell shared plenty of numbers like these that inspired hope, NBC’s handling of the Olympics was not without its critics. When asked about the commercial load of the opening ceremony, Bell noted that there were actually fewer ads in the Rio ceremony than in London, though “if you went on Twitter you wouldn’t have thought that to be the case,” he joked. 

With the next three Olympics being hosted in Asia, things are going to get more complicated. With the significant time difference between the US and Asia, timing will present a challenge, and events like the Opening Ceremony may not be live streamed, given that they’ll occur completely outside of primetime.

For Bell, the main challenge of live streaming comes down to measurement. There isn’t currently an agreed-upon Nielsen-like measurement system or metric for evaluating success of NBC’s livestreamed coverage, though there may very well be one in four years’ time. Bell hopes so, saying an acceptable standard of measurement is needed for not just the Olympics, but for all live-streamed events and programming.  

 

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