New York -- Gary Zenkel, President, NBC Olympics and Operations & Strategy, NBC Sports Group, and Ron Lamprecht, executive vice president, digital distribution, NBCUniversal Content Distribution discussed the success of NBC’s recent Olympic coverage in Sochi during a panel at the On Demand Summit here Thursday.
This year’s Winter Olympic Games led to a record-setting 2.12 million unique TVE views during the U.S. vs. Canada men’s ice hockey Semifinal, and the Sochi Games' overall 24.6 million total video viewers was a 160% increase over the 2010 Vancouver Games and an 8% increase over the 2012 London Olympics.
NBC has had comprehensive rights to Olympics coverage since 1996, and the company’s online coverage has evolved drastically since a paragraph detailing “interactive media” was included in the original contract negotiation.
“We have always had rights to all platforms to the Olympics,” said Zenkel. “We’ve always taken the position that we want to make as much content available to as many platforms as possible. It was really a matter of technology catching up to our ambition.”
Zenkel explained that the quality of video and the roll out of high-speed broadband were major elements that have improved in recent years to make content readily accessible across all devices with quality that rivals television. Although technology has advanced, the authentication process remains a significant barrier in getting consumers engaged with NBC’s TVE platform.
Zenkel, who recently helped secure a $7.7 billion Olympic rights deal for NBC from 2022 through 2032, explained that improving TVE is a “slow roll process” that can only lead to better results in coming years.
“The goal is to get to the point where there’s no authentication process, and TV Everywhere is just TV Everywhere,” said Zenkel.
Thus far, NBC's efforts have paid off to various degrees. The 50% authentication success rate during this year’s games marked a 317% increase from Vancouver and a 39% increase from the London Games, and Lamprecht thinks reaching a 90% authentication success rate by the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games is a realistic goal.
"We’ve proven that if you put the content in front of people, they’ll use it. Even with all the complexity, they’ll use it,” said Lamprecht.
Lamprecht also walked the audience through an authentication case study of the Sochi Olympics, noting that NBC offered all Sochi events via live stream with full replays available across all platforms, including iOS, Android and Win8. He explained that there are numerous reasons why the success rate was not higher than 50%, primarily involving awareness of TVE and difficulty logging in or surpassing the authentication process.
Lamprecht detailed four methods that have boosted the company's TVE performance in recent years: in-home auto-authentication, single sign-on capability, unified log-in and offering temporary passes for free content.
The temporary pass strategy was initiated in London but improved in Sochi, where NBC allowed consumers to watch video without initially having to select their cable provider.
“If we can get them engaged in the video before we burden them with the process of authentication, we have a much better chance of then getting them to go through the process,” said Zenkel.
Longer authentication tokens (allowing a user to remain authenticated after logging in once), easy credential recovery and social logins were also mentioned as ways in which to increase the authentication success rate.
The rate has improved largely because more devices have been made available to consumers in recent years. NBC now has all of its networks available via TVE, both live streamed and on demand. The last two pieces of its comprehensive TVE roll out, regional networks and stations, are within six to 12 months of launch.
“We started the first real authentications back in Vancouver, and that was pre-iPad. In February 2010, that was the first real authentication TV Everywhere moment, at least for us as a company,” Lamprecht said.
Despite the increased access to TVE on mobile devices, Zenkel offered a prediction that the fundamental viewing habits of consumers watching the Olympics will not change drastically in the coming years of NBC’s deal.
“In 2032, people will still gather around a big screen and watch the Olympics in primetime together on broadcast television. The other ways in which they consume the Olympics are completely unpredictable. They will evolve, and we will distribute them on whatever platforms they use,” said Zenkel.