An Olympic Test for TV Everywhere, Not Just NBCUSuccess of big digital offering crucial for broadcaster, multichannel industry 7/23/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Proponents of TV Everywhere will be taking a close look at
NBCUniversal's groundbreaking effort to offer 3,500- plus hours of London
Summer Olympics coverage starting this week, marking the first time that
authenticated subscribers of more than 100 multichannel providers in the U.S.
will be able to access live streams of all 32 sports and every competition.
Making the digital distribution of content part of larger pay TV offerings has,
in recent years, become central to the business strategies of both programmers
and operators as a way to stave off the threat of over-the-top video, and boost
their already lucrative pay TV business.
But the promise of TV Everywhere platforms delivering all of an operator's
programming to all devices remains something of a mirage. As programmers and
operators continue to feud over the digital rights necessary for expansive
offerings, consumers have complained about a cumbersome authentication process
and the confusion created by a hodgepodge of programming that varies widely
from operator to operator.
That makes NBCU's Olympian effort notable both for the size of the offering and
the work done to overcome some long-standing problems.
"This is the most expansive digital effort in Olympics history," notes Rick
Cordella, senior VP and general manager of NBC Sports Digital for the NBC
Sports Group. "When it's all over, we hope that people will walk away thinking
that NBC Olympics [coverage] raised the bar for what digital media can be."
While NBC will not be streaming its live primetime coverage, it will offer most
everything else for free to authenticated subscribers, including live streams
from four NBCU cable channels and feeds from the International Olympic
Committee's Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) covering all the events.
NBCU has also secured deals with more than 100 major multichannel providers
serving as much as 98% of the pay TV universe. "They wanted to make sure that
everyone who has pay TV can access the content, and that the authentication
system is integrated into all the major U.S. operators," says Ashley Still,
director of product management, video solutions for Adobe, which designed and
built two NBC Olympics apps and is providing a number of different solutions
for the authentication and streaming effort.
Some advances are also being made in the login process. NBCU's apps are
designed so that users only have to authenticate their iPad or other device the
first time they access the content. Some operators have streamlined the process
even further by setting up systems that automatically log in users that
subscribe to both their video and high-speed data services.
Cordella says NBC worked with Adobe to simplify the user interface and to make
it easier to find upcoming events. The video player, which mimics the one used
by NBC for its NFL and Super Bowl streams, also has DVR capabilities and a
variety of other features, including different camera angles for some events.
And in an important move, NBCU and multichannel operators have embarked on an
extensive educational and marketing campaign that includes promos, video
tutorials, mailings and other efforts.
"They've taken a multifaceted approach to educate consumers and drive awareness
and usage," says Michael Bishara, VP and general manager of TV Everywhere at
Synacore, which is providing authentication and other services to about 40
operators who are offering their subscribers Olympic coverage.
NBCU has considerable experience handling high-traffic events, having streamed
the first Super Bowl this year to about 2.1 million users. NBCU has entered
into an alliance with Google's YouTube to manage streaming of the Games. "They
do a massive amount of video delivery every day," notes Cordella.
All of this will also be extremely important for NBCU's efforts to maximize
revenue. NBC inserts different ads into the linear TV channels and the digital
video streams, which is designed to create an additional source of revenue.
But the broadcaster also hopes that the streaming efforts and its alliances
with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter on Olympics coverage will boost primetime
ratings. "We think getting good content out to as many people as possible will
help drive ratings and buzz in primetime," Cordella says.
If so, that could also help increase overall interest in TV Everywhere
offerings. "When you have high-profi le events like the Olympics and you see NBC
offering 3,500 hours of coverage, it is a terrific opportunity to expose people
to the value of TV Everywhere in a way that could benefit the whole industry,"
NBC's move to offer a record amount of content this year on
digital platforms represents a major shift from earlier Olympics, when
executives still feared that streaming video might cannibalize primetime
viewing. Cordella notes that they made the shift in strategy because, "we
haven't seen any data of our own or from any other place showing that having
content out there prior to broadcast or simultaneous to broadcast actually hurt
In fact, a number of their significant digital efforts and
alliances are designed to help boost TV ratings and traffic to their sites,
particularly among younger views.
While NBC is only making its London Games coverage available
at NBCOlympics.com and NBC branded apps, some photos and other content will also
appear on YouTube and Facebook to drive traffic to the NBC platforms.
"YouTube has a huge audience on the website and a younger
very video-centric audience," Cordella says. "So it made sense to work with
them to try to drive that traffic back to us."
Social media is playing a central role in the promotional
efforts. "I guess you could say that mobile, tablet and social media are the
big changes from prior Olympics, even Vancouver," Cordella says. "Any digital
strategy for 2012 requires a robust, complete social strategy."
As part of that effort, NBC has cut high-profile alliances
with both Facebook and Twitter.
The NBC Olympics page on Facebook will feature a variety of
content, and Facebook social media tools will also make their way into NBCU's
coverage of the games on TV, where viewers will see the results of Facebook polls
and tools that track what Facebook users are saying about the events.
NBC has also created specific on-air promos to help drive
viewers to its social media activities.
In addition to its TV Everywhere app, NBC Olympics Live
Extra for the live streams, NBC and Adobe have also developed a second app, NBC
Olympics, which doesn't require authentication.
NBC Olympics offers schedules and result along with other
content. Here, NBC has also created an innovative second-screen "Primetime
Companion" feature that is designed to be used along with its primetime
coverage, providing synched-up additional videos, bios, trivia, polls and other
content tied to the live events.