NBC Universal, which has broadcast the Olympics for decades, has a mission for the 2008 Beijing Games: It wants to analyze the new viewing behaviors of the Olympics audience. And in doing so, it hopes to get marketers accustomed to measuring TV audiences in a different fashion.
NBC has not just committed to analyzing the reach of each TV broadcast, streaming web video or mobile display of its Olympics content. The network will also try to track viewing patterns across every venue, in what might be an early but necessary attempt to gain a picture of the TV viewer of the modern era. These people watch TV content, of course, but don't always watch it on TV.
The project will help advertisers and NBC "begin to understand how the viewer is thinking cross-platform," said Alan Wurtzel, president-research, NBC Universal. When sports fans can get updates and alerts via mobile device, watch an evening event while out at a bar, look at streaming web video and, yes, just watch good ol' TV, they will "experience [the Olympics] across a variety of platforms at different times of the day, depending on your life," he added.
NBC expects the Olympics to draw more than 200 million viewers for 3,600 hours of program content, 2,200 of which are streaming video. The company will make the Olympics available via NBC, Telemundo, five cable channels, NBC.com, video-on-demand and mobile.
Whether NBC will succeed in its attempts to get marketers to pony up for more diffuse audiences remains to be seen. The effort is "trying to link media together," said Jim Kite, president-connections, research and analytics at Publicis Groupe's MediaVest. The question, Mr. Kite added, is whether a media outlet such as NBC Universal can turn its research from a tool to gauge audience reception and advertising effectiveness into hard data upon which ad prices can be based. "Whether it becomes a currency is a different thing altogether," he said.
Indeed, one Olympics advertiser simply sees the NBC data as a research tool. Bank of America is a sponsor of the U.S. Olympics team that has placed added emphasis on digital initiatives, such as social-networking, in addition to its TV advertising. "The information from NBC is likely to provide us with rich data that will complement our own internal advertising and brand measurement efforts," said Joseph L. Goode, a spokesman for the financial-services company.
The media concern will try to go both broad and narrow. NBC Universal will offer a "total audience measurement index" across mobile, online, VOD and TV as well as results from an online survey of 500 Olympics consumers each day, checking on the time they spend with different media as well as the time of day and location of their exposure to Olympics programming. While the index offers a directional picture to how many viewers watch content, it is not able to tell whether the views are unduplicated, and whether the same viewers are watching across different venues.
NBC will also work with IMMI, a San Mateo, Calif., company that uses a mobile-phone-based digital-monitoring system to measure consumer media exposure. NBC will try to measure how people follow the Olympics throughout the day and the share of time they spend with mobile, online and TV. IMMI will also help drill down further, analyzing whether online watching takes place at home and at other venues, including work. NBC Universal will also use diaries, interviews and focus groups to get a sense of consumption habits and attitudes over 17 days of the Olympics.