OnScreen Summit: Olympics Proved Sports Streaming Model Works

NBC's Litner Talks NHL Lockout, Rising Media Rights Costs

New York -- NBC Sports Group's digital coverage of the 2012 London Olympics this past summer, which featured a total of 159.3 million video streams (64.4 million of them were live), proved that the online streaming model works for sports.

"The model worked," said Jon Litner, group president for NBC Sports Group, during the Sports Keynote conversation with Multichannel News' news editor Michael Reynolds, held at B&C/Multichannel's OnScreen Summit here Thursday.

"We were able to not in any way cannibalize our audience," said Litner, who argued that the live-streaming actually helped the television ratings. "TV Everywhere, I think is reality... It's called 'TV everywhere' for a reason."

Litner said that for younger generations, it doesn't matter how they view sports, as long as they can view it live. "Young adults, don't necessarily distinguish where they are getting their video", he said. "When it comes to sports, it's perishable."

Litner was bullish on the future of streaming sports live. "Everyone in the ecosystem is getting a much better understanding of the opportunities that are around with TV Everywhere." he said.

The ongoing NHL lockout has knocked out much of NBC Sports Network's as well as part of the company's regional sports networks; winter programming. "It is hurting our business," he said. "We're heavily invested in the NHL."

Litner said NBC Sports Network has aired more college football and basketball and original programming to take up some of the space, "which is fine, but we'd love the NHL to come back soon."

He said finding replacement programming for the regional sports networks it is more difficult, because those nets are geared specifically around those teams. "Our networks are built on the affinity [the fans] have with their own teams," he said. "Nothing truly is going to replace what they care most about."

"If you look at the history of these leagues, they've all gone through it," said Litner, pointing to the lockouts that both the NFL and NBA experienced in 2011. "We've been through this before." While recent reports are giving Litner and fans hope that the season will be salvaged, he said that if the year is canceled they will figure out appropriate revenue compensation.

When asked his thoughts on Fox's recent sports deals, including the upcoming 49% acquisition of New York-based RSN YES Network and their billion-dollar negotiations with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Litner quipped: "I don't know how Fox looks at things, but I assume they have smart people."

"I don't know where it's all going," commented Litner on the rising costs of sports media rights. "I think that everybody has to look at markets through their own lens."