NBCU Panning For Research Gold From Vancouver Olympics

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Presenting a Winter Olympic record 835 hours across linear and advanced media platforms, NBC Universal wants to make sure it and its advertisers better understand how consumers engage the Vancouver Games.
To that end, NBCU, looking to build on the research it conducted with the Beijing Games in 2008, will again provide daily TAMI (total audience measurement index) metrics to its coverage from Vancouver. The programmer is also expanding its thirst for knowledge about consumer habits when it comes to media usage and how that might impact advertising brand and message recall.
Given its massive commitment to the Games, NBCU is anticipating massive viewership. NBCU president of research Alan Wurtzel, during a Jan. 28 at 30 Rock flagging the programmer's Vancouver study goals, projects that next month's Winter Olympics will yield an unduplicated audience of some 200 million.
That would surpass the 185 million from the Torino Winter Games in 2006 and 187 million for Salt Lake City four years earlier, but still trail the 204 million unique viewers for the 1994 Winter Olympics from Lillehammer, Norway, which benefited from the notorious Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding intrigue.

TV viewership, though, won't be the only numbers NBCU slices and dices in Canada. NBCU will -- in the research realm's equivalent of the nations' medal standings -- again provide a daily TAMI number. Rentrak will supply video-on-demand data from set-top boxes; Omniture and phone carriers will gauge mobile VOD and WAP uniques; Omniture measure online uniques; and Nielsen keep tabs on NBC and its cable cousins P2+ counts.
Looking to provide quantifiable single-source, cross-platform measurement, NBCU will use data from Arbitron's portable people meter service in 33 markets, combined with Internet data from comScore and Omniture to map out national TV and online participation. The system will provide data through a 2,000-member panel sample that is projectable across 115 million U.S. TV homes, according to Wurtzel. Moreover, it aspires to provide insights about viewing to both TV sets and computers inside and outside the home, and even whether a desktop or lap top was in play.
Social networking and its effect on audience participation and advertising buzz and recall will hail from Keller Fay's Talk Tracks. This "word of mouth" measurement stems from data and 8,000 consumer interviews before and during the Games. Additional qualitative info will be collated from 2,700 follow-up conversations.
TiVO is also in the Games, so to speak, as it will give NBCU second-by-second, set-top box info aimed at measuring audience retention for both the athletic competitions, as well as the commercials run during the Vancouver coverage. This info will extend to the impact of Olympic-themes creative versus general messaging.
As was also the case in Beijing, NBCU will again serve up a three-screen qualitative study, via a partnership with San Mateo, Calif.-headquartered iMMi. Some 40 panelists will use a sophisticated phone to measure their Olympic viewing on TV, online and on mobile devices.
This time, though, the iMMi study will measure viewing across all NBCU TV networks, exposure to nearly 100 different Olympic-related sites, and provide detailed info on specific video being viewed. This data, although not projectable given its small sample size, should afford a greater understanding of what and when consumers watched, and why they selected a particular device.
New media options notwithstanding, TV will remain the delivery system of choice. In Beijing, 93% of Olympic interaction centered around the original small screen, and Wurtzel doesn't anticipate the usage patterns to change dramatically, as linear will likely garner the lion's share of consumer attention from Vancouver.
He does expect a significant increase in video, though, from NBCU's mobile WAP site.
With 6.5 million unique visitors, the platform far exceeded internal projections of 1 million for the Beijing Games. However, consumers expressed displeasure with the experience. That didn't surprise Wurtzel, who noted that 3G phones at that time were relatively new and few and far between, with video quality below today's improved standard.
"Mobile was not ready for primetime," he said, noting that the "iPhone was nascent" at the time.
He expects a significant uptick in this delivery from Vancouver, given that 25% of handsets today are "smart phones that pick up video in a positive way."

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