Commentary

The Tipping Point For Metadata

Like everybody else, I watched the Olympics.  You gotta love the biathlon, the continued excellence of Shaun White, and Lindsey Vonn coming back from an injury to win gold in the women's downhill skiing event.

 I catch Olympic fever every two years, and Vancouver 2010 was no different.  The Olympics are a stirring reminder of everything that's great about America: our will to win, our respect for fair play and our love of country.

It's also one of the few global television events that still reliably draws "big three"-type numbers. 

NBC did a great job handling those things that big broadcast networks do well:

  •       Fantastic production value

  •      Creating stories about the athletes

  •      Excellent on-camera talent -- namely, Bob Costas

    As The Wall Street Journaltells it, NBC  also did an admirable job of catching all this data as it came in, spending $250k to measure when, where and how people are viewing the content.

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    NBC is even releasing a daily total audience measurement index (TAMi) tallying how many people watched the Olympics on the different platforms (TV, computer, mobile, etc) that are simultaneously and variously broadcasting the events.  This is a great start to real understanding of how and when people consume content.

    Still, the problem remains that (as we've all read) NBC will lose $250 million on these Olympics.  In fact, The L.A. Times just beat up NBC for losing money and not offering "TV Everywhere" style-access to the games.  And of course, the network continues to take broadsides from fans for delaying the broadcasts of competitions. 

    Part of this is a fundamental structural question: the games happen at a certain time of the day, and yet prime-time broadcast television needs to happen from 8-11 p.m.  If we're watching the games as they happen online on our office computers, will we still tune in for the broadcast in prime time? 

    It's worth noting, the Olympics do bring a special brand of patriotic magic.  Even when we know what happens, large numbers of us want to tune in to see the U.S.'s best day in winter Olympics history anyway, to the tune of 30.1 million viewers -- a  number that beats "American Idol."   

    NBC did admirable work in a tough spot. But imagine a truly multiplatform Olympics:  

  •       Ad-embedded events live-streamed by a world-class player like Microsoft's Silverlight

  •       Metadata content recommendations for favorite events

  •       Seamless mobile delivery and discovery

  •       "On Demand" Olympics megapass for premium viewers

    Whatever the scale, data is the key to getting the most value out of content.  The more metadata you have, the more you can do with it, and the longer you can get people to stay and consume your content. 

    For example, let's say I watch the next U.S. hockey game.  If NBC was employing enhanced metadata, after viewing the match, I would get recommendations for other hockey games.  The system could also point me toward equally compelling, high-intensity ice sports like speed skating.  As a result, I would probably want to watch more content for longer periods of time.   

    And, as for seamless mobile delivery (in good quality and formatted for the screen of course), with strong metadata I can watch content on the go and from anywhere - and, most importantly, on my schedule.  As we've all heard time and time again, consumers want convenience.  You end up with more eyeballs on your content, and the ads you are serving with it.   

    Someday -- soon -- we will reach a tipping point when even global events like the Olympics are truly multiplatform in a way that is both open-access and hugely profitable. I think the data NBC collected from the just-completed Olympics is a big step toward proving its value.

    Way to take some bullets, NBC, on the road to the future.  With any luck, the next time the Olympics roll around, the infrastructure will exist to make up that $250 million shortfall -- and put you back in the black where you belong.

  • 9 comments about "The Tipping Point For Metadata".
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    1. The digital Hobo from TheDigitalHobo.com, March 3, 2010 at 2:04 p.m.

      The question: If we're watching the games as they happen online on our office computers, will we still tune in for the broadcast in prime time?

      The answer: No. We should be doing the 3 hours of work we didn't do while we watched a hockey game "at work."

      Companies around the country (and world) should be thanking NBC for not making every minute available on line. With 10% unemployment, it shouldn't be too hard to find people willing to work hard regardless of what's on TV.

    2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 3, 2010 at 2:46 p.m.

      As watching content "everywhere" continues to grow, how will the time differences - 7 hours? - next time effect profits more than they have in the past? By the way, some of the commentary was downright ignorant and insulting and just plain stupid. Bob Costas, et al, may be one of the most knowledgeable sportscasters in broadcast, but he needs to be replaced.

    3. Patrick Reiter from Haworth Media, March 3, 2010 at 3:28 p.m.

      I think this is a great example of "what could be" if those with a digital mindset were brought into the fold. The opportunity cost of a traditional only approach to media continues to mount.

    4. Richard Monihan, March 3, 2010 at 3:51 p.m.

      When I worked at AOL in the early part of this decade, we always laughed at the 6 month "fads" that surrounded advertising online.

      These fads have continued, but I'm not sure there is a real timeline like there used to be. Currently, the "fad" is "give me something unique" or "innovative" - about as vague a request as possible.

      Occasionally something truly unique DOES occur. It's rare.
      When it does, people take note and try to imitate.

      But in the long run, the standard stuff is going to reign supreme. Rich Media is good, and will always have a place, but it's only going to be "better" in the sense that one Geico's "Caveman" ads are "better" than their "Gecko" ads. That is, it's going to be a matter of taste and desired visibility.

    5. Richard Monihan, March 3, 2010 at 3:54 p.m.

      ANDDDD....I meant to post that on another board....LOL.

      What I meant to post HERE was this:
      NBC was burned by the TripleCast. An idea WELL AHEAD of its time. As far ahead as it was, it was also poorly executed.

      But sadly, one error like that ruins it for whoever comes up with the idea later.
      Swinging for the fences is sometimes correlated with striking out, though.

    6. Walter Sabo from SABO media, March 3, 2010 at 4:26 p.m.

      You can thank NBC's CMO, John Miller for all of that data. He's a genius.

    7. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, March 3, 2010 at 6:40 p.m.

      Ben:
      The technolgoy and multi-screen access was a true advance which is more than can be said for the mediocre event coverage and the often unecessary jingoistic tone. Bob Costas is simply dreadful. TAMi is also a terrific measurment breakthrough but as Alan Wurtzel will advise it still basically a pilot study.

      Tony Jarvis, British Olympian and proud US citizen

    8. Aaron Burcell from SmartyCard, March 3, 2010 at 7:51 p.m.

      I agree with Tony. NBC is finally getting somewhere with digital media production and syndication, but the Olympics on-air talent and production quality was very poor. Costas is the worst interviewer in all of sports (okay, maybe = to Bryant Gumbel), and I'm glad Colbert put him on a moose for humiliating jockey visuals. Chris Colinsworth is just below watching Joe Buck and getting a root canal in Gitmo's top ten torture list. NBC should have done away with the vignette's and the fire-side chats, and instead just bounced between live events (yes live!) and given us more ads (yes, more ads!)... would've saved a ton on "talent" and made more ad $, while giving the viewer more content.

    9. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, March 8, 2010 at 10:36 a.m.

      Some of the collected data is unique to the olympics. Just because someone watches the luge on their IPhone doesn't mean in 3 weeks they will watch an NBC show on hulu. But it will help NBC maximize ad revenue and resources next time around it handles big events.

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