NBCU Looks to Medal with TV Everywhere Olympic Authentication

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Much like the Olympics represents the culmination of years of training for the athletes, NBCUniversal hopes to earn gold with its expansive TV Everywhere efforts at the London Games.

The programmer is in the midst of what it is calling the largest ever multiplatform marketing initiative ever to stimulate TV Everywhere verification, a push aimed at informing the nation's 100 million pay-TV video subscribers how they can authenticate and gain access to 3,500 hours of streaming Games content.

NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel said NBCU has been "working very closely with distributors since the close of Vancouver Games to market and emphasize the authentication process. There has been a lot of time, money and resources marshaled to pull verification together."

NBCU is encouraging customers that receive a video package that includes MSNBC and CNBC to verify their subscriptions at NBC Olympics Live Extra, the exclusive home of Olympic live streaming content at NBCOlympics.com. Cable, satellite and telco customers also can verify their mobile and tablet devices for a pair of apps that launched on July 15. The apps, available in Apple's iTunes App Store and Google Play, will provide access to live Olympics coverage on mobile devices for the first time. The TV Everywhere app, NBC Olympics Live Extra, will deliver live programming available through cable, satellite and telco TV providers covering about 98% of the U.S., according to NBCU. The NBC Olympics app, free to anyone, provides video highlights and live results.

To sign up, subscribers must visit NBCOlympics.com/LiveExtra and hit the "click here & get ready" button. From there, the users must select their cable, satellite or telco provider and enter the username and password that corresponds with their account. At that point, the subscriber is signed in throughout the Games for that device, but must complete the same steps for additional platforms.

Early returns evidently have been encouraging. Michael Bishara, Synacor vice president and general manager of TV Everywhere, said last week that there has been a 6%  "Olympics kick" in comparison to normal authentication across-the-board since the Games verification process.

"It's very promising and a strong indicator of verification for the Games." Bishara said. Synacor is representing 40 distributors, including Dish Network, Charter Communications, Grande Communications, Mediacom, Suddenlink, WOW, BendBroadband, Blue Ridge and Cable One that reach more than 25 million homes, for the Olympic authentication process.

Bishara said some of the providers were extant clients to Synacor's white-label TV Everywhere solution, which includes sign-on authentication, video aggregation and mediation, as well as back-office integrations with distributors' rights, I.D., and billing systems, while others that have come on board for the Olympics.

He believes the Games will leave a lasting impression on the TV Everywhere movement: "The Olympics are going to galvanize distributors to gear up with other providers past the Olympics."

As to the more immediate task at hand, Brian Hunt, senior vice president, marketing and sales strategy at NBC Universal TV Networks Distribution, said that in his conversations with top MPVD marketing executives, he found that "their engagement levels and commitment behind authentication are high."

Hunt said that NBCU supplied distributors with spots, taggable promos and customized messages. A sweepstakes effort also offers subscribers a chance to win a trip to win a trip to the London Games. "It's part of the registration process for authentication," said Hunt. "We want to make verification top of mind."

John Miller, CMO of NBCUniversal Television Group and head of the NBC Sports Agency, said the programmer had customized different 90-second tutorial segments, featuring Carson Daly, for the nation's largest video providers.

"Cable, satellite and telco distributors all have different situations, slightly different ways of authenticating," Miller told Multichannel News after NBCU's pre-Olympic press event in Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home to SaturdayNight Live, last month. "Working with Carson, we customized 16 different tutorials that not only talked about the opportunities, but debunk some of the myths, like subscribers have to pay more to watch the content."

Different spots, talking about the streaming opportunity and the aforementioned sweepstakes, as well as another promo about apps, began running during NBC's coverage of the Olympic Trials on June 25. The messages will continue airing on various NBCU networks and platforms through the Games.

Cable, satellite and telco systems were also supplied with digital banners, designed e-mails, bill stuffers and additional communication tools to inform their customers about authentication.

All those efforts aside, NBCU officials recognize that most of the sign-up will likely occur as the London Olympics, taking place from July 27 through August 12, get under way.

"There has been great feedback from the distribution community about digital push and intent to authenticate," said Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager of NBC Sports Digital Media. "We're making every effort to make this as seamless as possible, but it's just human nature to wait until the last moment. I think the opening ceremony is going to be a big driver, with more than 90% of verification coming after that."

He also noted that given subscribers increasing familiarity with TV Everywhere and authentication, as well as the 17 days of coverage from London, sign-up will continue throughout the quadrennial. That would come in contrast to CBS and Turner Sports' March Madness' digital offering, where much of the viewing occurs during the first Thursday and Friday of the men's basketball tournament when most people are in the office.

Cordella believes the continuing whir of technology is going to spur digital viewing at London. "Smartphones were just getting started during Beijing, Tablets, iPads they didn't exist during Vancouver," he said. "People are so accustomed to using these devices and they are expecting a great experience."

NBCU president of research Alan Wurtzel points out that half of all cells today are smartphones. Moreover, it estimated that there are over 50 million tablets in U.S. and counting.

As such, multiplatform usage at the Games, prompted by social media --  including NBCU's partnership with Facebook and perhaps a relationship with Twitter expanding beyond the Twitter Tracker -- is expected to explode. At the same time, these digital efforts, including 1,000 video-on-demand assets, are aimed at driving viewers to NBC's primetime package, still the Games' main revenue driver for the programmer.

For Zenkel, the expansive digital presentation represents the continuing evolution of Games coverage. At the Atlanta Games, "sixteen years ago there were 171 hours total on TV. Then, we were just happy to be able to present Olympic highlights on the web. The promise of the Internet is being more fully realized for viewers in London. Now every frame of every Olympic sport competition is being made available for all devices."

In his view, the London Games will also serve a watershed moment for the MPVD community.

"This is a unique moment in time, an opportunity for MPVDs to demonstrate how important TV Everywhere is to their business," he said. "This will be the largest opportunity until the next Olympics to show the impact of TV Everywhere."

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