For NBC, The Olympics Is An Experiment On Streaming

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NS Olympics they almost look like they were designed for the streaming era.

In the not so distant past, only a few dozen hours of each Olympics were televised. Cable channels allowed more sports to be seen, but even in the 2000s, Olympic broadcasts consisted mostly of athletics, gymnastics, swimming, and a handful of other events.

It wasn’t until the 2008 Beijing Olympics that NBCUniversal began showing thousands of hours of the Games online and broadcasting the competition across multiple platforms, resolving a longstanding space issue.

During the Tokyo Games, NBCUniversal said it will show 7,000 hours of Olympic coverage in two different languages ​​across two broadcast networks, six cable channels, and several online and streaming platforms. (Understanding where to watch certain events – good luck official broadcast schedule – practically requires an advanced degree.)

The challenge of finding the right slots for programming has shaped the history of sports on television. This is why the biggest regular season games in the NBA, MLB and NHL are played on national channels, with the majority of games on local channels. That’s why ESPN operates nine — that’s right, nine — separate television channels. Until a few years ago, there wasn’t enough room for all sports shown at any one time, and the Olympics this year cut the problem down to three weeks.

By streaming, broadcasters can offer an infinite number of “channels” where viewers are limited only by the speed of their internet connection. However, while broadcasting the Olympics can be a boon for the archery or badminton fan, it’s a much more difficult proposition to make it work for NBCUniversal, who can now watch those competitions in their entirety.

NBCUniversal is doing the same dance that all broadcasters do these days. Sports leagues and organizations want their matches to be shown to the widest possible audience, namely on broadcast channels such as NBC, CBS and ABC. If leagues fail to broadcast, they’ll agree to appear on cable channels like NBC Sports Network and ESPN, which aren’t as home-grown as broadcast channels. Generally speaking, streaming services like ESPN+ and NBCUniversal’s Peacock are the ultimate choice for game organizers.

This puts media companies like NBCUniversal in an interesting position. They know streaming has their future, but nearly every streaming service is still losing money every year – and some are losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year. So how can they prepare for the future while making money in the present?

For NBCUniversal, which has paid nearly $12 billion for the rights to televise the 10 Olympic Games in the United States by 2032, the Tokyo Games is a fantastic opportunity to promote its one-year streaming service, Peacock.

“The hopes for Peacock are that the Olympics will encourage people to at least give it a test drive, and if they’re lucky, it will create a habit in some customers to come back for episodes of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and all other episodes. said Craig Moffett, a media analyst.

But sports aren’t ideal for streaming services as they have almost no replay value. Few people want to rewatch a match or continue the next day if they already know the outcome. Scripted shows like “Friends” and “The Office” still hold tremendous value, years after they aired. He doesn’t do sports programming.

Also, canceling a streaming service is much easier than a paid television package, so turnover among customers is higher. Sports fans are almost encouraged to sign up for a service, usually through a free trial, watch the match or event they’re interested in, and then unsubscribe.

The traditional strategy, then, is to keep fans subscribing. It’s no coincidence that ESPN launched ESPN+ largely after the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The massive pay-per-view battles on ESPN+ bring millions of customers through the door, and dozens of other UFC events throughout the year keep them subscribing to the service; this is necessary if you want to see the biggest ones.

The Olympics can’t go that way. They fill the audience with sports for three weeks, then disappear for two years. They may attract tens of millions of eyes to Peacock, but they won’t be what keeps them in service after the closing ceremony on August 8.

NBCUniversal offers a lot of programming in Peacock’s ad-supported free tier. Peacock has created all sorts of Olympic dashboards in which you can watch highlights, replays, live streams and medal charts. But very few will be service specific.

In the wide streaming environment, Peacock is currently losing out to its competitors.

Netflix has over 200 million subscribers. There are over 100 million on Disney+. HBO and HBO Max have over 60 million. In sports streaming services alone, ESPN+ has 13.8 million subscribers.

As of March, Peacock had 42 million “records”, but only 14 million of these people watched regularly. NBCUniversal didn’t say how much ad revenue it generates or how many paid subscribers it has. by report from Bilgi In February, Peacock had millions of subscribers in the single digits only.

It’s hard to imagine the Olympics changing that. “The vast majority of Olympic programs at Peacock will be available for free and will be ad-supported,” Matthew Strauss, executive director of Peacock, said in a statement last month.

They put live games featuring the United States men’s basketball team on Peacock’s first-class level. However, these games will also be shown on NBC with tape delay. “We thought it was an interesting opportunity to learn for Peacock,” Strauss said.

What NBCUniversal doesn’t need to learn, however, is that the Games are an advertising bonanza; this, perhaps better than anything else, explains why the Olympics may not be a streaming game changer.

NBCUuniversal told It has already surpassed the $1.2 billion in advertising revenue it earned during the Rio Games five years ago. These games generated a profit of $250 million, mostly from advertisers who wanted their ads to appear in front of the 25 million people who watch NBC every night.

Putting some of the biggest events exclusively on Peacock – if that’s even a possibility given the contract between NBCUniversal and the International Olympic Committee – would mean less ad revenue, but perhaps more subscriber revenue. Regardless, NBCUniversal will learn, and its decisions will affect the way we view future Olympics.

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