"To some extent, these Olympics are staring to influence how people use new technology," said Alan Wurtzel, president-research and media development, NBC Universal. "About half of people who use mobile [to watch NBC Olympics content] are using it for the first time."
Clues to future habits
NBC Universal is showing 3,600 hours of Olympics content across a broad array of broadcast, cable and digital channels, and its attempts to measure consumption of it has broader ramifications for the TV business. As more people start to get information and entertainment from venues other than the living-room TV screen, measuring that activity will play a large role in whether big networks such as NBC can get advertisers to pay significant dollars for it. Overall broadcast TV ratings are eroding, though advertisers remain interested in major sports events such as the Olympics, which often draw huge communal audiences who are still eager to watch them as they happen, rather than hours or days later on digital playback.
NBC's Mr. Wurtzel unveiled what the network calls a metric dubbed "TAMi," or total audience measurement index. The data capture in rudimentary fashion the numbers of people watching Olympics content on TV, online, via mobile and through video-on-demand. Results are far from perfect; some of the numbers may represent duplication of viewership. Even so, said Mr. Wurtzel, NBC intends to make such data available for all its programs in the fall, sometimes as a means of helping advertisers track cross-media promotions.
TV still rules
Mr. Wurtzel said TV remained the largest driver of viewing activity, representing more than 90% of total audience exposure on the first four nights of Olympics broadcasting. He said viewers appeared to be using online media to sample events they hadn't seen or to review highlights.
Initial ratings for the event have impressed media buyers, with Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna determining that the opening ceremonies for the current Beijing games snared more households than any other opening ceremonies since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. The ceremonies also represented the "highest-rated kickoff telecast for any Olympics held outside the U.S.," Magna said in a research note.
While NBC will make TAMi information available for all of its programs, don't expect advertisers to buy and sell ad time off of it, said Mr. Wurtzel. "It gives you an insight that you normally wouldn't have about TV viewership across platforms," he said.