×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Olympics Rights Holders Grapple With Audience Measurement Complexities

The exploits of the world’s best downhill skiers will be recorded with pinpoint precision at the upcoming Pyeongchang Olympics, but the networks showing the Winter Games face a distinctly uphill task in achieving that kind of accuracy when it comes to measuring their viewers.

Today’s fragmenting television viewing landscape is a boon and a bane for Olympics rights holders. Streaming and on-demand viewing mean that audiences in Europe, for example, will be able, for the first time, to watch every second of every Olympic event, live or not. But a proliferation of viewing options brings with it a lot more data, and fully capturing audience information — crucial for setting advertising rates — is beyond the capability of traditional ratings companies.

That has forced broadcasters to devise their own ways of figuring out who is consuming their content, including the wall-to-wall coverage many companies are promising for the Games.

NBC Universal plans to make its Olympic coverage available on broadcast TV, on cable, and via its NBC Sports app, which feeds back viewing data in close to real time. Combined with traditionally harvested ratings information, which offers valuable details like viewer age and gender, the data allow NBC to capture Total Audience Delivery — a more complete picture of who tuned in across TV, mobile, laptop, tablet and other devices.

“We have relied on Nielsen for years,” says Joe Brown, senior VP of Research at NBC Sports Group. “The fact that they delivered something to us that has a nice little bow on it and says, ‘Here is your audience,’ made it somewhat easy, as opposed to a media company getting into the nitty-gritty of the census-level data.”

The Total Audience Delivery system had its coming-out party at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and quickly showed its value. “If you judged NBC on television alone, you would have been short about 2 million viewers per minute,” Brown says.

Discovery shelled out $1.4 billion for Olympic rights in Europe and has sublicensed them to free TV in many territories. Eurosport, the sports network it owns, will show 900 hours of live coverage — 4,000 hours in all — via its TV channels and streaming service Eurosport Player. For Eurosport, the issue of tabulating viewers is even more complicated because it needs to measure results not just across multiple screens but across multiple territories, each with different levels of device penetration, broadband rollout and other characteristics.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW LARGER IMAGE

Senior executives at Discovery express frustration that the ratings agencies cannot cope with the breadth of its multiplatform offering or present a comprehensive standard measurement accepted by advertisers across the industry. Like NBC, Discovery’s Eurosport is developing its own system.

“We’re redefining television as not just the TV screen but what we’re going to call Total Video, and that will be consumption and engagement across all platforms,” says JB Perrette, president of Discovery Networks Int’l. “We’ll be rolling out a new metric, which we think is more applicable to the 2018 reality of how people are consuming content.”

Exactly what Total Video looks like, how it works and whether it will be 100% ready for Pyeongchang remains to be seen. Like the setup at NBC and elsewhere, it will likely comprise online data blended with traditional ratings.

With incumbent ratings agencies not yet up to speed, industry players are turning to other sources for help in measuring viewership. One such firm is L.A.- and Auckland-based Parrot Analytics, which counts Fox Networks Group and BBC Worldwide among its clients and looks at “demand expression” to produce data for traditional and streamed programming, including from Netflix and Amazon.

Parrot plans to apply its model to sports programming this year after receiving an increasing number of requests from clients, says founder and CEO Wared Seger. “We have now heard this from clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia, specifically requesting that we replicate our approach to measuring the demand for TV shows on a cross-platform, country-specific basis for live sports.”

While the upcoming Winter Games pose a particular challenge for broadcasters and ratings companies, the need to keep measurement systems au courant certainly won’t be extinguished when the Olympic flame goes out in Pyeongchang. “We live in a world where there is a new platform every other day, it seems,” says NBC’s Brown, “let alone with the two-year gap between Olympics.”

More Digital

  • Amazon Prime

    Amazon Prime India Greenlights ‘Bandits’ Music Series

    Amazon Prime Video India has greenlit original series “Bandish Bandits.” The show is a musical created by Still and Still Media Collective. The series will follow an Indian classical musician bound by tradition and a pop star whose performance skills are greater than her talent. A bandish is a term used to describe a musical [...]

  • Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese

    Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese Video Platform Bilibili

    Alibaba has purchased an 8% stake in the Chinese online video platform Bilibili, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Bilibili is one of China’s top video streaming and entertainment platforms, with about 92 million monthly active users and 450 million page-views per day. Founded in 2009, it was listed on the NASDAQ last March. Alibaba’s [...]

  • Clevver-Logo

    Hearst Magazines Buys Clevver's Pop-Culture YouTube Channels After Defy's Demise

    Hearst Magazines has snapped up Clevver, a network of female-skewing lifestyle and pop-culture news YouTube channels that had been owned by now-defunct Defy Media. Clevver was left homeless after Defy’s sudden shutdown in November; its principals said at the time they were looking for a new home. Hearst Magazines sees a digital fit with Clevver’s [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Rhett-Link-Good-Mythical-Morning

    Rhett & Link's Mythical Entertainment in Talks to Acquire Smosh (EXCLUSIVE)

    Smosh, the YouTube comedy brand left stranded after parent company Defy Media went belly-up, may be about to get a new business partner. Mythical Entertainment, the entertainment company founded by top YouTube comedy duo Rhett & Link, has been in talks about acquiring the Smosh brand, sources told Variety. Multiple potential buyers came forward to [...]

  • Pokemon Go

    Proposed 'Pokémon Go' Lawsuit Settlement May Remove Poké Stops, Gyms

    A proposed settlement in the class action lawsuit against “Pokémon Go” developer Niantic could remove or change a number of Poké Stops and Gyms in the popular augmented reality game. The proposed settlement was filed in a California court on Thursday and applies to anyone in the U.S. who owns or leases property within 100 meters [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content