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Consortium scores ratings gold

CTV, Rogerts venture aired Games via multimedia

Canada’s cocky “Own the Podium” campaign may have drawn derision from foreign media at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, but Canadian viewers delivered record-busting ratings gold to the country’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, which exceeded all predictions with its multi-platform coverage under the banner “every second live.”

The Consortium, a unique partnership between competing media congloms CTV and Rogers, crossed the finish line last weekend having delivered over 4,800 hours of live, multi-lingual HD coverage via 12 TV channels, 14 online streams, 20 radio stations, 64 Cineplex theaters, mobile and video on demand.

In fact, the Consortium’s all-encompassing contract also had a clause to cover any other new technology that might have emerged between the Games’ opening ceremony on Feb. 12, which became the most-watched TV event in Canadian history with auds of 15.6 million, and Sunday’s closing event.

Some 26 million Canadians — more than three-quarters of the population — watched the Consortium’s platforms on the first day of the games.

“We even had significant discussions about 3D but they came just a little too late,” says Consortium prexy Keith Pelley. “Having the Olympics in your own country means the event transcends sport, and so from the beginning we knew we had to respond not only to the evolution in how Canadians are consuming media but also to their emotional expectations.”

While pundits predict the Consortium will break even on the coverage, Pelley would only say that advertising sales had been brisk, the “increase in interest” a result of the record-breaking auds for the Canadian men’s hockey matchups against the U.S. and Russia, and Canadian medal wins in ice dancing, skiing and speed-skating.

To measure the reach of its platforms, the Consortium developed the Canadian Unique Multimedia Engagement (CUME) index, a calibrated summary of most-trusted systems for each medium, including BBM Canada’s Personal People Meter system for TV numbers and Omniture for website action.

By Day 11, the CUME index indicated 97.8% of the population (32.8 million Canucks) had engaged with Games coverage.

Unlike NBC’s traditional mix of time-delayed events with live coverage in primetime, the Consortium’s lead broadcaster CTV began its programming six hours before each day’s competitions started.

But NBC has been something of an unofficial partner.

CTV’s “Olympics Morning” show did a comedy bit with the net’s primetime anchor Brian Williams and “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams.

Canadian viewers endured hours of banter, but they also watched American Lindsey Vonn ski for gold live.

Overall, critics and auds praised the live event coverage and commentators via the Consortium’s busy social-networking forums.

“We worked with Microsoft on the (HD-capable) Silverlight player and (Turin-based) web developer Deltatre which has a fantastic understanding of integrating live results,” says Consortium VP of digital media and research Alon Marcovici.

“We modeled our highlight factory on what NBC did in Beijing. We even tried to think of ways to facilitate cross-border trash talk during the hockey games,” laughs Marcovici.

“This is really a watershed moment in Canadian broadcasting. We gave Canadians a lean-forward experience where they could interact with content in a way that is built on the concept of choice — what, when and how you want.

“Canadian have adapted quickly, and in the future I think they are going to expect layered, produced online content that will enhance the passive TV experience.”

The Consortium will no doubt be mulling those ideas with the London Summer Olympics coming up in 2012.

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