NBCU Teams With Google, comScore for Olympics Audience Research

Few events on the sports calendar — or on any calendar, for that matter — deliver the level of media consumption offered by the Olympic Games. In an effort to capitalize on this 17-day golden opportunity, U.S. rightsholder NBCUniversal will conduct its third Olympics research initiative, during the 2012 Games in London. NBCU will team with Google and comScore to explore new ways to measure overall viewership across broadcast, cable, Internet, mobile devices, and tablets.

“There are a number of things that are going on today in terms of [media consumption] that are going to be magnified at the Olympics,” says Alan Wurtzel, president, research, NBCUniversal. “The way that the contemporary consumer is consuming video has changed dramatically, and I think you will see a huge leap in the use of secondary and mobile devices to consume video [of the Games].”

This will mark the third Olympics go-round for NBCUniveral’s “Billion Dollar Lab” (a reference to the hefty price tag NBC paid), following the Beijing and Vancouver Games. NBCU will work with Google and comScore to develop new ways to measure single-source consumption of video content across all platforms.

The Holy Grail of Media Measurement
The single-source metric is considered by NBC and others in the industry to be the holy grail of media measurement. The data point measures the use of different devices by an individual consumer across multiple channels, online services, and apps.

Although the current TV-focused ratings system continues to draw the ire of major media companies looking to capitalize on consumers’ continued migration toward alternative platforms, a reliable formula for single-source measurement has remained illusive. And without an accurate understanding of how people consume media online, on mobile devices, and on tablets, the digital-ad–sales market has remained cloudy. This is what makes an event like the London Games so enticing to media companies and their digital advertisers.

“There is a huge amount of use over a short period of time [during the Olympics], and that allows us to magnify the use of these new emerging platforms in a way that we could not do in a day-to-day environment,” says Wurtzel. “It takes place over 17 days, so, unlike [with] a Super Bowl or Academy Awards, we get to track fans’ behavior over almost three weeks and see how it changes.”

The way people consume media has shifted radically since the Vancouver 2010 Games, when the iPhone represented the only high-quality video-enabled smartphone and the iPad/tablet had not even hit the market. The consumption equation for London will be very different.

“A lot has changed since Vancouver,” says Wurtzel. “First, by the time we get to London, it’s estimated that about 40% of all handheld devices will be smartphones, and we are going to be delivering a lot of content available on those devices. Secondly, the tablet didn’t even exist back in Vancouver, so we’re excited to see what happens on that front.”

Partners in Research: Google and comScore
NBC will rely on Google’s analytical and digital expertise, as well as comScore’s demographic-specific tracking tools. Although NBC has used the Lab in previous Olympics’ research efforts, the London Games will utilize a larger sample size.

The Google project will feature a panel of approximately 3,000 respondents who have agreed to participate. The project will also use a number of proprietary algorithms developed specifically for this project by Google.

The effort will use comScore’s new 10,000-member single-source TV/Online panel to focus on several hundred enthusiasts who plan to follow the Games on multiple platforms. It will deploy set-top boxes, electronic meters, and panelist self- reports to provide media-consumption data.

Sharing the Research Wealth
NBCUniversal, Google, and comScore plan to make public the results of consumer Olympic media consumption, as well as their broader findings related to cross-platform–measurement approaches. According to NBCUniversal, other research partnerships for the Lab will be announced soon.

“The whole idea of multiscreen experience and ways in which people move between platforms is what is of real interest to us here,” says Wurtzel. “We will hopefully get insight into what the media world will look like in the future. That is the goal.”

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