05 Feb 2014

There’s a Reason NBC Will Stream Every Second of the Winter Olympics

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NBC’s last Olympics was either a rousing success or a spectacular failure, depending on who you ask.

The failures, as some called aspects of the coverage, were painstakingly documented in the #NBCFail hashtag that served as a sounding board for complaints about the tape-delayed coverage of the opening ceremony and some of the most anticipated events, in addition to spoiling the Michael Phelps/Ryan Lochte showdown.

The success made a smaller splash on social media but a bigger impact on NBC’s bottom line – record setting viewership helped the broadcaster turn an unexpected profit on the Summer games.

Two years later, NBC is set to change little about its Olympics coverage. For the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the opening ceremony will air eight-and-a-half hours after it actually happens; primetime coverage will be a melange of taped coverage of the most popular events; online users will need to authenticate their cable subscriptions to gain access to live streaming of the events.

NBC has a good reason for changing so little; 219 million people tuned into the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, making it “the most-watched television event in U.S. history,” according to the broadcaster.

The few changes NBC has made represent an important call on the intersection of traditional and digital media — namely that more is more.

“What we found in London was that the people who were live-streaming Olympic content during the day on a PC or laptop or a tablet were actually more likely to watch more Olympic television than people who weren’t live-streaming or engaged in some form of other kind of contact with the Olympics,” said Jim Bell, NBC Olympics executive producer, in a recent conference call.

That revelation has led NBC to double down on its digital investments in an effort to follow a simple rule – the more Olympics you give people, the more they want.

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