NBC Thinks Bigger is Better

Digital allows NBC to up coverage of Sochi Olympics  NBC logo over Olympic rings

The 2012 London Summer Olympics proved to be a rough time for NBC.  Following the delayed broadcasting of the opening ceremonies and many anticipated events, the network found itself the subject of Twitter’s trending #FailNBC.  This go-round, however, NBC promises not to disappoint.  Its solution?  Digital coverage – and lots of it.

In addition to purchasing the American TV rights to the Sochi Games, NBC has also secured digital rights from the International Olympic Committee (procurements which cost the company a combined total of $775 million).  This will allow the network to supplement the 539 hours of Olympic coverage to be run on NBC and its affiliates with digital programming.  Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBCUniversal, explains, “One of the things we’ve found is that if you want to have the biggest event in television…you need to use all forms of distribution and technology.”  As such, NBCOlympics.com will provide viewers with over 1,000 hours of live-streaming coverage.

Moreover, two apps will ensure that smartphone and tablet users are kept up to date on all the latest Olympic news.  The redesigned NBC Sports Live Extra app will live-stream over 1,000 hours of sporting events.  The newly created NBC Olympics Highlights and Results app will provide users with access to TV schedules, athlete profiles, highlights, replays, and results.  These apps are compatible with both Windows Phone 8 and Android devices, in addition to iPhone, iPad, and iTouch technologies.

NBC is also offering exclusive, digital-only coverage.  The Gold Zone, available through both NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app, offers verified customers coverage which rapidly switches between sports in order to highlight important events as they happen.  Olympic Ice will also be available via both the website and the app, and will feature figure-skating news and highlights.  Additionally, NCBOlympics.com will offer daily highlights and updates via the web-exclusive Olympic News Desk.

Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, says, “Our plan is pretty straightforward; we’re going to deliver the most comprehensive coverage the Winter Olympics has ever had.”  Jim Bell, NBC Olympics executive producer, explains the company’s reasoning behind the expanded digital coverage: the more Olympic content made available, the more people desire to access this material.  Yet, Rick Cordella, senior vice president and general manager of digital media for NBC Sports Group, notes that with the expanded digital coverage, viewer expectations “of streaming are getting higher and higher.”  Now, he says, viewers expect “TV quality.”

Only time will tell if bigger actually is better for NBC.  It will be interesting to monitor NBC’s viewership and web traffic throughout the Games.  Regardless of the findings, however, it is undeniable that as technology continues to grow and develop, networks will have to digitize content so as to stay competitive.