Preliminary figures show that 58% of Europe’s population watched the Winter Olympics in Discovery’s top ten markets in Europe. The figures cover free and pay-TV in the major Discovery and Eurosport markets and viewing on the broadcasters that licensed rights from Discovery in those territories.
Despite the tricky eight-to-nine-hour time difference between Pyeongchang and Europe, there were 4.5 billion video views, 1.7 billion hours of video watched, and 386 million viewers and users across the span of the just-completed Games.
The numbers offer an indication of whether Discovery and Eurosport delivered on their pledge to give Europe its first digital-first Olympic Games. Discovery had shelled out $1.4 billion for European rights to the Olympics between 2018 and 2024, and had recouped a major chunk of that by sublicensing to broadcasters. But in bringing the Games to countries where viewers traditionally watched the Olympics on advertising-free pubcasters, Discovery had a significant new opportunity to work with commercial partners on different platforms.
To measure its performance across territories and platforms, Discovery followed the likes of NBC in the U.S. and created, with the help of Publicis, a “Total Video” metric that encompasses linear and digital viewing and social media engagement. There were 8.1 million engagements, including likes and shares, across Discovery’s social platforms. Discovery’s opening ceremony coverage had 2.5 million YouTube views, while Michela Moioli’s snowboard cross gold was another had 2.3 million views on Eurosport’s Facebook page in Italy.
“We want to help marketers and advertisers understand the power of the Olympics,” Discovery Networks International CEO Jean-Briac Perrette told Variety. “Part of that is better metrics and using them to build that belief.”
The Games were also a test of Eurosport’s ambition to evolve from a destination for hardcore fans of second-tier sports to a top-level TV and streaming player. Across its app, website, player, and social media, it claimed a reach of 76 million over the Pyeongchang Games, and 15 million used the app during the games. Linear viewing almost doubled year-on-year.
The digital outreach brought the younger demographics that advertisers crave. “We said we wanted more people watching on more screens and to be digital first,” Perrette said. “But it was not just more, but younger. There is an idea the Olympics audience is aging, but we found that you need to expand to where the youth and younger demos are.”
Discovery partnered with Snapchat, Facebook and other platforms. Perrette said a lot of the most-watched short-form coverage was of the human stories behind the events, including presenter and family reactions to the Olympic action.
Having acquired SBS, Discovery showed the Games on its own free-TV channels in countries such as Norway and Sweden. These countries are winter sports strongholds, and it would have been an Olympic-sized shock had the viewing numbers not been strong. In several cases there were ratings records.
The men’s cross-country skiing 4x10km event delivered a Norwegian commercial TV record share of 93% on TV Norge, and the broadcaster also had its best ever day, with a 56.5% share on Feb. 18. In Sweden, Kanal 5 enjoyed an 88% share for the women’s cross-country skiing 4x10km event, and in Finland, the men’s hockey match between Sweden and Finland on Feb. 18 won a 76.3% share on TV5.
“Discovery is proud of the consumer response to Eurosport’s coverage of the Olympic Games,” said David Zaslav, Discovery Communications CEO. “Much of what we set out to do in Pyeongchang, never has been done before, highlighted by delivering every minute of the action in the first-ever digital Games across Europe.”
Discovery will condense the viewing and engagement figures into a Total Video number as it sells the message to advertisers. With Tokyo 2020 two years out, the training for the Summer Games is underway.