NBC's Olympic Worry: Lack Of Viewer Interest Or Usable Cross-Platform Metric?

The Olympics are back. And so are big-time brand advertisers -- with some $1.3 billion in ad revenue on the line. But the word "back" may be relative -- especially when it concerns declining viewershp so far.

Questions keep coming. The main one: Is it worth it?

The Tokyo Games Opening Ceremony didn’t offer up anywhere near a moderately decent view of things -- down 36% versus five years ago for the Rio Olympics -- around 17 million viewers.

Olympics content this year has remained at the same level or lower through the following first five days.

The silver lining (but maybe less gold): There is far more streaming usage for the games.

More silver to consider -- NBC says Olympics ads are getting 61% higher attention index scores during prime time, with brand recall and “message memorability” up 39% and 31%, respectively.



Now, in the past, we might have just dismissed these trends and metrics -- especially for streaming. Streaming, while interesting, was no big deal.

But this is 2021 and streaming apps continue to gain strength -- now representing 25% of U.S. TV homes' viewing usage. Plus, TV networks have now ramped up their selling magic and sent out an alarm: Streaming’s time has come.

All the more reason that Nielsen, the main third-party measurer of national TV currency, needs to push harder to deliver that one measure of viewing across all media platforms.

We have heard loud and clear from major NBCU ad executives that Nielsen has been lacking in this area.

For its part, for the last few Olympics, NBCUniversal has compiled its own total audience viewer data -- across TV networks, time-shifted viewing, VOD, streaming, and other partnered video platforms.

Yes, this is self-cured internal data -- not a third party. But what choice does NBC have? The Olympics is a major TV network program expense -- delivering tons of content over roughly a two-week period.

Here’s more positive stuff: Even with the shocking decline to 15 million to 17 million prime-time viewers a night, that is nearly still 50% to 100% more than the top regularly scheduled non-sports prime-time broadcast shows.

Sure, the NFL can do that over a weekend for a number of games.

But what the NFL can’t do is get the breath of audience -- beyond mostly young male viewers -- to what TV has always promised: TV content that includes females and men young and old. You know it as "broadcasting."

No time to waste. The race has already begun.

Meet you at the finish line to give some high fives to the winners? Also note who is out of the medal hunt.

2 comments about "NBC's Olympic Worry: Lack Of Viewer Interest Or Usable Cross-Platform Metric?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 2, 2021 at 10:33 a.m.

    Interesting report, Wayne. I think that it's important to bear in mind that the typical Olympics advertiser does not buy a single spot---but many announcements spread out over  various events. Accordingly, the evaluation is not merely based on the average minute "viewers" ---as reported by Nielsen but, rather, on how many people might have watched the brand's commercials over the whole schedule that was purchased---and how often this happened. Also of interest is the degree of attentiveness. If NBC is correct---namely that the average viewer was substantially more attentive to commercials than the traditional TV norm---I'd like to see the evidence on this----that, too, is a consideration---although I doubt that NBC used attentiveness metrics as part of its audience tonnage guarantees this time around.

    As for NBC mixing and matching various sources to combine digital "viewing" with "linear" in its calculations, this continues to be an issue but for now advertisers may have to put up with it as digital remains a small part of the audience delivery. As this changes,and it certainly will change, I assume that Nielsen will find a way to provide the needed data. on a comparable basis.

    A final thought. Average minute audience levels are not the only reason for sponsoring the Olympics. Often the intangibles---imagery, tie ins with various sports, etc. etc. ---are as important or more so----- as is the case with many other event or "special" sponsorships.

  2. John Luma from iLumaNation, August 2, 2021 at 3:46 p.m.

    Great comment Ed. 

    As a part-time sports fan (not a fanatic but I have my faves) let me say the obvious --
    The networks have made it very difficult to KNOW when to watch or WHERE to watch or WHY to watch! 
    What happened throughout all the Olympic carriage to the all-important tune-in pricipal called "User Friendliness"?
    They have all screwed their own network's ratings and return viewing patterns by making it so difficult and splintered in providing EASY VIEWING SCHEDULES.

    Changes Needed -- (I apologize if I did not see these in action.)
    1, Show a Master Schedule across all networks on one page for the next three days coverage. Show each networks times and coverage. Simple -- all 46 sports events rotated through, new every day. (This will guarantee higher viewing averages for all nets. Suddenly the mass audience will SEE ALL they want to know.)
    2, Many of these on-camera hosts are just boring. +No name supers, no sports bonifides listed -- so why should we get excited? Can any actually entertain?
    3. No clear info on sports no one understands -- fencing for example. What scores points? Impossible to know, nothing explained. So why should we care? Duh.
    4, Promote the repeats! --Just don't give away the winner.
    So Nets -- you want ratings? Ain't gonna happen without real audience (marketing) engagement, every second at all hours.

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