Are The Olympics The Best Prism For Understanding Cross-Platform Viewing And Ad Effectiveness?

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February 14, 2012 – 11:54 am

NBC Universal is bringing in Google and comScore to help it get a fuller picture of its audience for the London Summer Olympics. This is the third time the network would be rolling out its "The Billion Dollar Lab," a reference to both the billions of dollars in advertising  the network expects to reel in and the billions more it has spent to acquire the programming rights to air the global sports event through 2020.

The company announced that it is working with Google and comScore to develop a range of initiatives designed to provide a single-source measurement of video content across TV, PCs, smartphones and tablets.

Alan Wurtzel, president of research at NBCU, also told Variety's Andrew Wallenstein that additional partners will be revealed to help it cover the social media and out-of-home audience in the next few weeks.

The network has said that it will stream some live video of the London games, but hasn't offered specifics. The network had previously been reluctant in past years to offer live digital options to Olympics viewers, but the relative success of last month's real-time video offerings around NBCU's broadcast of the Super Bowl -- a first, in fact -- may inspire the network to relax those previous restrictions even more. But NBCU has good reasons for proceeding cautiously -- mainly because the value of digital video viewers remains woefully unclear.

The broadcast for Super Bowl XLVI broke a new record with 111 million viewers, whole the live stream attracted 2,105,441 U.S. users, the network said.

The network has said that the streaming of the Super Bowl on both and was the "most-watched, single-game sports event ever online," per to data provided by Omniture and mDialog.

The number of "social media buzz" also registered high. As of midnight eastern time on Sunday, the Super Bowl attracted 11.5 million comments across Twitter, Facebook and blogs, according to social TV data provider Bluefin Labs.

But the question remains: what was the marketing effectiveness of the millions spent on advertising around the Super Bowl, which had over 40 marketers paying between $3.5- and $4 million for a 30-second spot, while the seven marketers who advertised during the live video stream paid roughly six figures to be associated with the video feed?

To be sure, counting the audience is the first and most necessary step. So as marketers prepare to pour in an estimated $3 billion, according to Magna Global,  in TV advertising around the Summer Olympics, even more insight will be needed to discern the impact of all the ad messaging.

As more and more people connect with TV through either their DVR or online video as they Tweet and comment on Facebook, the issues of cross-platform viewing is in some ways both clearer and more nebulous.

Last week's Nielsen Cross Platform Report (sign-in required for download) report highlighted some of the promises and problems for traditional TV companies. For one thing, as BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield noted, watching digital video doesn't actually increase the amount of TV viewing, as he heaviest video streamers tend to watch less TV, not more.

Aside from that, it's worth asking whether all the focus on viewing activity around the Olympics might not benefit advertisers all that much. After all, there really aren't that many high profile televised events that tends to bring mass audiences.

Who knows, perhaps if there's any money left over from the Olympics research, the network can determine whether or not there is any correlation between cross-platform ad effectiveness for major media programming and the more quotidian parts of the TV schedule.

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February 14, 2012 – 11:54 am

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