NBC Sports Execs Say Olympic Advertisers Are Pleased With Coverage

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NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said Thursday that
despite several complaints about the network holding some major London Games events
for delayed primetime coverage instead of televising it live, the network
is over-delivering its ratings guarantees to advertisers who "are all very
pleased" with the results.

For those critics who tend to forget, NBC paid nearly $1.2
billion to televise the Games and it is doing so for free on NBC and its cable
network affiliates. NBC has to try to recover as much of the TV rights fee it
is paying the International Olympics Committee, and this time around, it has
reached the break-even point. More than likely, that would not have happened if
the network was showing the gymnastics finals live from London with its five-hour
time difference, putting the competition at 2 or 3 p.m. on weekday, workday
afternoons, when audiences would be far sparser.

In a conference call with the media, Lazarus said more than
once that, "partners," meaning advertisers, "are important to any business, and
they are pleased." As with any business, if the partners are paying a
cumulative $1.2 billion to advertise, and are then professing to be happy with
the results, then NBC has done its job. By providing the American viewing
public free coverage of the Games and not losing any money to do it, the
Olympics appears to be, at this point, a definitive win/win.

NBC also released research data that throws water on the complaints
that suggest many would-be viewers are not watching the Games in primetime
because they already know the results. According to a uSamp survey of 1,000
viewers 18-54, 43% said they had heard the results of Olympic events before the
primetime telecasts, but of those, 67% said they were more likely to watch the
telecasts anyway.

According to a proprietary project NBC is doing with Google
to measure media use across platforms, viewers who streamed live events last
Saturday (July 28) were nearly twice as likely to actually watch the primetime
broadcast on NBC. Further, they spent about 50% more time watching the
primetime telecast on NBC than those who didn't stream live events online
earlier in the day.

From those numbers, it seems that for a large chunk of
viewers, knowing the results hasn't negatively impacted primetime viewing of
taped competition; in many cases, it's even led to more intense viewing.

NBC also released the results of another study, this one
with Nielsen IAG. The research company analyzed the performance of 83
commercials that ran in both the Olympics and in regular primetime programming.
IAG surveyed consumers who saw the spot during Olympics programming, as well as
consumers who saw the same commercial in non-Olympics programming. Based on
over 3,000 completed surveys, commercial seen in the Olympics delivered 67%
higher brand recall, 96% higher message recall and 31% higher "likability."

So, regardless of the complaints by some viewers, the NBC
format seems to be working both for advertisers and for a majority of the
viewers.

Speaking of viewers, through the first six nights of
broadcast coverage, the Games are averaging 34.8 million viewers, an increase
of 4 million viewers -- and 13% -- over the comparable first six nights'
average of NBC's coverage from the 2008 Beijing Games. And the London Games
have also averaged an 11.1 18-49 rating per night, 7% higher than the
comparable period from Beijing.

Lazarus said the primetime coverage NBC offers up each night
goes beyond simply presenting the competition. It's also excelling by creating
storylines to go with the events, and that helps pulls audiences in and keep
them watching. "We can't please everybody," Lazarus said, "but audiences are
coming in droves and staying."

The uSamp panel found that 40% of those polled said they
stayed home all last weekend to watch the Olympics coverage, and 44% said they
are sleeping less because they are staying up till midnight each night to watch
the primetime telecasts. Also, 36% admit to following the Games at work, either
via computer or mobile.

Some other interesting Olympics viewing data that NBC
released Thursday:

  • According to Nielsen data, total teen viewing is
    up by 28% compared to Beijing; viewing by teen girls 12-17 is up 52%, while for
    teen boys it's up 7%. And viewing by kids 2-11 is up 33%. NBC execs say that while
    this audience might not be one that can be heavily monetized by advertisers
    right now, it is the next generation of Olympics viewers who might be getting
    hooked on the Games now.
  • The uSamp research of social media users age 13-49 found that 82% said "with
    all the buzz I have become more interested in watching the Olympics."
  • Archery coverage has averaged 1.5 million viewers, and is the highest-rated
    Olympic sport so far televised on the NBC cable networks -- that includes basketball.
  • Among tablet users, 76% are live streaming on a tablet for the first time to
    watch the Games, and 86% have streamed live on a smartphone for the first time
    during the Games. Also, 36% of website users are streaming live online for the
    first time.

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