Great Olympic Success for NBC; Some Disappointment for Me

Categories: Internet TV

Written By

August 25th, 2008

I mostly enjoyed the Summer Olympic games in Beijing. I know many people have bones to pick with the way the coverage was handled by NBC, but I don't wish to hop aboard that train. And although I was dismayed that certain events were not shown live on the west coast even though they easily could've been, it's hard to argue with the success NBC had doing it their way. Mostly, I'd have to applaud NBC and its results.

My disappointment stems from lack of fully utilizing the test-and-learn environment with its Total Audience Measurement Index (TAMi). While some events were streamed live online, nothing I really wanted to watch was. Plus, the environment of forcing Microsoft "Silverlight" installations in order to watch video impairs the results somewhat.

While I knew TV was a bigger deal than the Internet and no amount of experimenting was likely to change that, I was surprised how miniscule the online viewing component was. Many see the unique website visitors (which were generally in the 6 million to 8 million per day range) and jump to conclusions based on those. The unique reach numbers for online were impressive. Indeed, if we had one-tenth of that amount here at TVbytheNumbers, Bill and I would be dancing a jig in San Francisco.

But I wanted to focus in on the viewing component of online access and when you sort through the numbers published by NBC for actual viewing (not Web visitors who were merely checking medal count updates) the numbers, as reported, were a rounding error. 99.7% of all viewing took place on television. .03% of viewing took place on the Internet. Although the minutes of streaming online were not/are not reported in the TAMi results, I do appreciate NBC making that data available via press release at least a couple of times so we could calculate the actual viewing percentage numbers.

I expected the numbers to be bigger. It would have been nice if NBC had some true test-and-learn capabilities. Versions of the site where it streamed some of the bigger events live, and without needing to download and install Microsoft's Silverlight software to view the streams. As it stands, we're likely to hear "of course the number on the Internet was tiny relative to television, NBC didn't stream any of the good stuff live and they made it a pain in the @&^ to view it!" The truth is, we don't know what difference any of that actually makes, but the point is, neither does NBC. And that's a missed opportunity for the peacocks, who seemingly didn't miss many opportunities with these Olympics.

For now, what TAMi winds up showing is this: "we're measuring everything - Internet traffic is big, but Internet viewing was tiny. Mobile and Video-on-Demand are even more fractional than Internet. For now, like it or not, only TV really matters."

The good thing about TAMi is that NBC is keeping it and down the road we'll get to find out how Internet viewing impacts TV viewing for some of the entertainment programs. While obviously it won't measure all components of digital distribution, I suspect the impact of the Internet for a show like Heroes will be different than the effect for a sporting event. We'll find out fairly soon.

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