I could have easily titled this post “A tale of two platforms – the old and the new”…
Have you been following the online Olympics buzz? NBC has been incredibly restrictive about where & when their 2,200 hours of video content will live online. To make matters more interesting, the video player on NBCOlympics.com requires Microsoft’s SilverLight video plugin, which besides being a plugin that none of us have installed yet, totally alienates Mac users who are not even able to utilize the plugin at all, leaving Mac users out in the cold.
According to Nielsen, the first workday after the opening ceremony of Olympics, over 2 million unique video viewers and 4.6 million total visitors visited NBCOlympics.com (that is compared to 114 million TV viewers, an Olympics record). By the way, Yahoo’s Olympics site had 5.2 million viewers during the same day. So it begs the question that must have reverberated the board rooms at NBC for months, even years, prior to the games – is the lack of online video content and the delaying of online content until after the televised broadcast driving viewers to tune in on TV? Or would the ratio of online to TV viewing generally remain the same even if NBC had let loose of the reigns a little bit? Are they making the best decisions to balance maximizing the return on the $894 million investment in the US broadcasting rights, with the long term needs of maintaining valuable relationships with viewers?
In the first two days of the games, 90% of viewers watched the Olympics on TV alone, nearly 10% watched on both TV and online, and only 0.2% watched online-only, according to Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s president of research.
To complicate matters, there’s a 15 hour time difference between the US and China, and a good portion of the Olympics programming is being broadcast 12 hours after the actual events, giving reporters and bloggers enough opportunity to spread the results of the games (sans video of course) prior to the broadcast. So consumers may know the results prior to actually watching the games on TV (or online for that matter). What about simulcasting the TV and web programming? This would create no possibility for ratings erosion or cannibalization of one medium’s ratings for the other’s, it would only increase consumer choices, which is always a good thing. In fact, via deals with AT&T and Verizon, the TV coverage is indeed being simulcast on mobile TV. NBCU is after all using a new measurement tool they refer to as “Total Audience Measurement Index” (TAMI) to try and determine the aggregate reach of its multi-platform coverage.
Last notable point regarding the Olympics is what is happening elsewhere around the world. In an effort to preempt pirated footage hitting the web, the broadcasting group of the International Olympics Committee established a channel on YouTube, which is accessible to 77 countries – and of course the IP addresses of countries with exclusive broadcasting deals, like the US, are banned from viewing this content. Within China itself, P2P site PPLive.com is actually officially licensed to stream the live games. A quick search will bring up plenty of website and blogs that offer advice on how to “hack” around the restrictions and gain online access to the content if you really want it. Personally, I don’t want it that badly, but apparently many people do, possibly just for the principle of it.
Meanwhile On The Other Side of Town
Unless you’re living under a rock, you would have noticed by now that Facebook has relaunched a new layout and design, but what you may not yet have noticed are the new ad placements and formats. Video ads with commenting capabilities have rolled out on a test-basis on the Facebook homepage. Most of us will notice the “Sponsor” block on the right hand column filled with generic Facebook ads, but this is where the video unit is being tested. What an engaging concept, yet a double edged sword. However, the ability to tap into consumer demand and brand advocacy by displaying comments can be huge. The flip side of course, is if a marketer knows that their brand has as many detractors as it does advocates, this is not going to be the unit of choice.
So the moral of today’s story? The dichotomy between the application of online video of one of the most powerful media brands of our lifetime and the new kid on the block is equally experimental on both sides. Online video is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The only commonality is the potential.