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Olympics viewing: Digital takes Gold

The numbers are now in, and it is clear that while viewers to conventional broadcast channels enjoyed the Rio Olympics, it was digital viewers, whether on ‘red button’-type options, or simply viewing via second screens which took the main prizes.

NBC, which paid a massive $1.23 billion for its TV and digital rights, reported that some 2.25 billion web-streams were supplied via its dedicated – and multi-option – website.  NBC probably got value for money despite its TV viewing numbers being the lowest since the 2004 Games in Athens, when the time difference between Eastern Europe and the US was much more severe.

Nielsen data shows an 18 pe rcent decline on this year’s Games compared to London. Nielsen says the Rio event averaged 25.4 million viewers over its 17 nights, while Athens achieved 24.9 million per night average.

But factor in the 2.7 billion ‘live transmission’ minutes downloaded onto various second screen devices, and then add in the various replayed minutes and highlights and the total balloons to 3.3 billion minutes spread over 100 million unique users, a 29 per cent uplift on London.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “Today, most (broadcasters) have their own digital platforms and we see that they’re using these to bring the public to their traditional channels. Digital feeds traditional TV and vice versa,” he said.

Dror Ginzberg, CEO of online video specialists Wochit, said: “The Rio Olympics will be looked at as the last games where traditional TV was priorities over other channels. For future Olympics, social media and on demand video will become equal partners to live TV. This is especially true as viewing the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea will be impacted by a significant time difference in the UK, which will only hasten consumers’ move away from viewing the action on live TV, to social media and on demand video.”

Rio’s 1200 camera operators and 7000 broadcast technicians kept the viewing public and digital consumers fully supplied with stunning images, and some 7000 hours of competition.

Heading up this vast operation is Yannis Exarchos, who runs Olympic Broadcast Services on behalf of the International Olympic Committee, and says that the Rio Games saw internet and on-line viewership as big a factor as [conventional] television. He added that social media helped drive this digital audience to Rio, and took this year’s viewing numbers to a record 5 billion users. Within the first 4 days of competition more people had watched Olympic activity on second screens than during the whole London Games of 2012.

Within 10 days of the start of the Rio Games the on-line streaming numbers had passed the two previous Olympics (London and Sochi). Ratings agency Nielsen said more than 2 billion minutes (33 million hours) were consumed in the US alone in the first 10 days of competition.

Exarchos also said that this year’s experimental Virtual Reality (VR) programming was also a huge hit with viewers, and by Tokyo in 2020 VR and 360-degree material could be a very important factor for consumers and where viewers are at the centre of the action right alongside the athletes.

Now fans can continue the experience via a dedicated all-year Olympics Channel, to: “maintain the feeling and atmosphere of the Games when the Games are over and the flame is out,” said Exarchos.

The channel is at www. olympicchannel.com, and is deliberately curated to be digitally interactive and tailored to second screen users.

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