Editor's Cut: The Olympics are over. The athletes have gone home. Stadiums have emptied. Life in Rio can return to normal. But what happens now?
Did brands get the most of their $200 million Olympics gold sponsorships? Did NBC earn that $1.2 billion and counting payday from advertisers?
If you believe NBC’s press releases, the Rio games were the most successful games in television history—if it weren’t for those pesky Millennials. In reality, NBC’s coverage of the games has been raked over hot, smoldering coals by social media, being charged with everything from racism to sexism. And article after article is claiming the ratings of the games to be nothing short of a disaster. But the peacock network isn’t exactly crying itself to sleep as it paid $1.2 billion for the right to broadcast the games, and early projections estimated some $1.2 billion in national advertising had been secured in advance of the opening ceremony…not including local ad revenues or revenue from digital content platforms like partner sites. So from NBC’s vantage point, the games have been a profitable success.
The only problem is that if NBC were competing for a medal, they wouldn’t have even passed the preliminary rounds in the ratings, which dipped to the lowest TV ratings since the 2000 games. By the numbers, Ad Age reported that NBC averaged 26 million viewers and a 14.9 household rating, which marked a 15-percent decline from the 2012 London games. And Rio’s NBC ratings are actually based on total audience delivery, blending broadcast and cable primetime deliveries with streaming data. So even if we want to try to tell TV advertisers that at least the audience tuned in online, not even that would really be true.
In the network’s quest to make good on mega-contracts, they may have created a horrible viewing experience, especially for millennial viewers who already had no desire to be tethered to time-delayed primetime viewing. They didn’t really even want to be stuck on NBC’s streaming of the games. Instead, it seemed that the digital generation stuck to a digital Olympics, choosing to connect with real-time scores and live action clips through social channels. According to Facebook, 227 million people interacted with 1.5 billion posts. On Twitter, 187 million tweets were sent about the games. It seems the only place NBC really won the games was on Snapchat, as Rio-related Snapchat content attracted nearly 35 million viewers and 2.2 billion views.
Before the games, the Chairman of NBC quipped that Rio would be a “live Olympics” experience…he just didn’t understand that the audience didn’t necessarily want it to be live on an NBC channel.
The hope here is that between now and the winter games of Beijing and certainly the summer games of Tokyo, someone at NBC becomes the chief experience officer of the games and that they do what the rest of us in the world of marketing have had to do over these past several years: transition away from being an advertising-only-driven machine and turning our attention to how experience drives opportunity and return. Maybe then, instead of crunching in more units to satisfy advertising contracts, attention will be turned to actually delivering what the audience is asking for—real-time options with primetime entertainment.
The Olympics viewer of the Tokyo 2020 games will not sit idly by, waiting for the primetime wrap-up. They will have already seen the athlete-posted gif wrap-ups and Instagram stories of victories posted by proud parents of gold medalists. NBC won’t be the only cameras in the room, and their big cameras will have just as much competition from a mobile device camera in the hands of a fan. But most of all, they better get used to that! If Rio taught us anything, it is that no experience has remained predictable or static. If NBC isn’t ready with relevant, real-time experiences and appropriate content within each channel of engagement, we’ll be in for another rocky ride. Welcome to the Age of Experience, NBC…you have absolutely no time to get up to speed.