Comcast's Strauss: 2012 Olympics Were 'TV Everywhere' Watershed Event


More than 1.5 million Comcast subscribers accessed some 26 million video streams online and via mobile devices for NBCUniversal's coverage of the 2012 London Olympic Games -- a "watershed" event for TV Everywhere that the MSO will build on, Comcast senior vice president of digital and emerging platforms Matt Strauss said.

However, that represents less than 10% of Comcast's 22.1 million video customers. Meanwhile, NBCU irritated cord-cutters by mostly shutting them out from the live Internet video walled-garden, who then griped about it on Twitter and blogs and even turned to workarounds to tap into the BBC's free, U.K.-only online feeds.

And, of course, Comcast had a vested financial interest in promoting the high-stakes Olympics strategy of its own NBCUniversal division.

Comcast Xfinity Olympics microsite

But to Strauss, the fact that Comcast generated a sizable amount of multiplatform usage around the Olympics -- and that at the same time, primetime TV ratings were strong in the MSO's markets -- provides proof points that TV Everywhere works.

"Our focus is now taking the success from the Olympics and taking it to fall TV and other kinds of programming, primarily sports, news and kids," Strauss said in an interview. "We're encouraged that we are on to something very meaningful."

Overall, NBCU tallied 9.9 million devices registered by cable, satellite and telco TV customers either on or on the NBC Olympics Live Extra apps for tablets and smartphones.

According to Strauss, Comcast accounted for about one-third of those, with around 3.3 million authenticated devices.

"We overindexed given our share of subscribers," Strauss said. He noted that the TV Everywhere services were not available to all 22.1 million Comcast video subs, only to its approximately 18 million digital cable customers.

Comcast's Matt Strauss

Strauss acknowledged that TV Everywhere still is not mainstream "in the sense that you have tens of millions of people live-streaming content." But he maintained that NBCU's TV Everywhere results, which included eight events with more than 1 million streams, marks a turning point for the industry's authentication efforts.

"This is like the early days of VOD. We've hit an important milestone," he said.

The Olympics also underscored the growing importance of live TV for TV Everywhere content, which to date has been largely on-demand, Strauss said.

Across all providers and digital platforms, NBCU served 159.3 million video streams from London, compared with 75.5 million from the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Of that total, 64.4 million were live streams, 353% more than Beijing's 14 million. For the London games, users averaged 111.4 live streaming minutes per viewer on the Web and 94.3 live streaming minutes per viewer on the app.

For its part, Comcast has launched other live TV Everywhere services including WatchESPN, WatchDisney and WatchDisneyJunior, and Turner Broadcasting System's CNN and HLN.

Comcast subs who accessed the NBC Olympics TV Everywhere services authenticated an average of 2.4 devices. The operator took steps to simplify the login process, training call-center agents to assist subscribers, and activated an automatic in-home authentication that on some days represented more than 50% of successful logins, Strauss said.

Of those who streamed Olympics video, 32% was consumed on mobile devices and 20% of subscribers used only smartphones or tablets, according to Strauss. But PCs were by far the dominant platform, with live TV Everywhere usage for the London games peaking between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Eastern -- presumably from people who were tuning in at work. On traditional VOD, Comcast served about 22 million views related to the Olympics.

As to whether Comcast pushed the multiplatform Olympics simply because it is the majority owner of NBCU, Strauss said, "The focus and attention we put behind the Olympics is the same focus and attention we're going to put behind TV Everywhere. We showed we could deliver the most complex TV Everywhere experience in a way that demonstrates we can deliver an audience. Yes, we had a reason to want to do it but we did it, and now we will apply that to other content."

During the Olympics, Comcast provided free access to several thousand MSO-operated Wi-Fi hotspots along the East Coast to promote the TV Everywhere features. Ordinarily, the Wi-Fi network is open only to Comcast broadband subscribers or those of affiliated MSOs, including Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems.