Call it a new type of Olympics TV workout: Peloton, which live-streams spin classes to the people who use its exercise bikes, will make available four workout shows from NBCU’s Olympics broadcast center in PyeongChang, South Korea, part of an advertising and promotional agreement struck between the two companies.
While Robin Arzon, the company’s popular Peloton instructor, holds forth during the sessions, some NBC personnel are likely to appear as well. Among the potential helpers: NBC News’ Willie Geist and Dylan Dreyer, and former Olympians Scott Hamilton and Ato Bolden.
NBCU knows it needs to beam its Olympics content on to as many different kinds of screens as possible, says Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics and Business. “Twenty years ago, you could hit everyone with some really good network television and cable,” he explained in an interview while working in South Korea in advance of this week’s Winter Olympics kickoff. “Today, we need to extend that,” he added. “Part of our strategy to reassemble an otherwise fragmented media audience is to reach into as many media spaces that our audience is spending part of their day in.”
Peloton’s consumer base is nearing 1 million people, said William Lynch, the company’s president, in an interview. Its biggest live-streamed audience to date is about 12,000 people, he said. Peloton intends to let its entire audience of users know about the NBC Olympics classes, which will be available daily between February 16 and 19 at 6 a.m. eastern, and will also be available in Peloton’s on-demand library.
“I think it could break the world record for live-streaming participation,” said Lynch. Peloton is buying a run of advertising during NBCU’s Olympics broadcasts as part of the deal. NBCU is a minority investor in Peloton.
Peloton was considering an ad campaign to define itself to consumers and talk to them not just about fitness, but also the content the company distributes, said Lynch. “Some people think of us as a bike company. We are more of a media company than anything. We are about creating innovative content. As we talked about what we could do versus just running an ad on the Super Bowl, this felt much more in line with what we do.”
Monetizing an Olympics audience migrating from a traditional TV screen to other ways of consuming the massive sports broadcast is critical for NBCUniversal and its parent, Comcast. The two are in the midst of a $4.4 billion rights deal that lets them cover the Olympics in the U.S. through 2020, and have already agreed to pay $7.75 billion for broadcast rights to the Olympic Games between 2021 and 2032.
Overall linear-TV viewership for NBCU’s most recent Olympics broadcast – from Rio in 2016 – was off 18% from its 2012 broadcast of the Summer Games from London. NBCU was able to meet advertiser guarantees by granting sponsors extra commercial time, and came away from Rio with more than $1.2 billion in ad sales – and approximately $250 million in profit.
NBCU thinks Peloton’s audience could be a valuable one. “The member base includes a lot of influencers,” said Zenkel. “Getting in front of this audience and having them talk about us, talk about the Olympics, talk about our coverage, is simply another way of making sure we are in front of the American population with the excitement of the Olympic Games.”
NBCU’s broadcast center in PyeongChang – built especially for the event – is 75,000 square feet of space and includes edit rooms and broadcast operations as well as the studio from which Mike Tirico will hold forth each night. “About 1,000 people will pass through that space in the course of a day,” said Zenkel. NBCU hopes some of that energy comes through Peloton’s screens.