Reporters, analysts and amateur commentators far and wide are starting to prognosticate on how NBC will fare with its Olympics coverage. Unlike four years ago, online video viewing is more than a niche pastime, and NBC Universal has to balance its primetime broadcasts with content distribution on the Web. I see three major issues at hand. First, how to bring in advertisers online – something NBC U is addressing by promising to measure Web viewership and rapidly quantify ad values. Second, how to support massive, concurrent online viewing around key clips of content and maintain a quality experience. And third, how to get the most from online viewing without cannibalizing broadcast coverage.
The last point is particularly interesting because the Olympic Games are going to act as a monumental case study for content owners, content distributors and advertisers alike. What can all of these groups learn from NBC’s Olympics experience on how to straddle the on-demand world of the Web and the traditional television broadcast medium? At the moment NBC has said it won’t show anything live online if it’s going to be televised later. However, an industry source (not within Motorola) tells me that NBC is still debating the point internally and may show clips from popular sports during the day to drive Internet viewing. If the network handles it right, those clips should bring in money online, and at the same time be great teasers for NBC’s primetime broadcasts.
The broader point is that everyone is still trying to figure out how to make money off two video mediums that operate very differently… but are growing closer together. The issue is multifaceted and urgent in an industry that’s only going to see change accelerate in the next few years. Figuring it out encompasses everything from managing video delivery networks efficiently, to managing vast quantities of content including new IP assets, to understanding how to target advertising. We’re going to learn a lot from NBC’s Olympic run next month.