NBC's Huge Games Tally
Research Drive Measures Viewers Across Platforms
When the Olympic Games air next month, 200 million Americans will be watching. And NBC will be watching those viewers to figure out how many people are tuning in, not only on TV but online, outdoors, via video-on-demand and on mobile devices.
In its biggest research effort ever, NBC is planning a pentathlon of studies that in combination should tell the network and its sponsors where people watched, why they picked the viewing mediums they used and how effective the advertising was.
NBC’s Olympics research effort could represent a big step for networks in quantifying the value of the multiplatform advertising packages being lapped up by marketers whose faith in simple 30-second spots has been shaken by the Internet and digital video recorders. NBC’s new research aims to show those advertisers what kind of bang for the buck the integrated ad packages are delivering.
“To be candid, we charged a lot of money for these Games, and a pretty big premium, and we believe our advertisers deserve some sort of an empirical measure of their return on investment, and hopefully some learning as to how effective the cross-platform marketing was,” said Alan Wurtzel, president of research for NBC Universal.
NBC, which is counting on the Olympics to pump up its fourth-place audience ratings, plans to release a new statistic dubbed Total Audience Measurement Interactive, or TAMi, after each day’s competition. That metric will drive home for marketers the fact that more people are watching NBC’s programming than are counted in the familiar numbers from Nielsen. The network plans to release TAMis for other programming when the TV season begins this fall, along with the traditional Nielsen data.
The Olympics are “like a billion-dollar research lab,” said Mr. Wurtzel. Because the Olympics lasts two weeks and attracts viewers to emerging media like mobile devices, the opportunity to gather data and draw supportable conclusions about viewership is huge.
“Not only are we going to measure the way Dick Ebersol [chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics] is going to produce and distribute the Olympics across all the platforms—that’s a given—but we’re also going to, I believe, figure out ways to better understand the three-screen experience,” Mr. Wurtzel said. “We hope to take those learnings and apply them once the Olympics are long gone.”
Measuring the audience and effectiveness of advertising across platforms is the “holy grail of marketing,” said Tom Zito, CEO of Integrated Media Measurement Inc., which is working with NBC on the project.
“Our goal is to help content owners, and advertisers as well, understand where this content is being used and how to monetize it,” said Mr. Zito. He thinks a single-source system like IMMI’s is the only way to derive a measurement of unduplicated cumulative audiences for multiple platforms.
The NBC project provides a showcase for IMMI, which hopes to turn its multiplatform data on cumulative audiences into a potential currency for buying and selling ads.
Mr. Zito said his company will be doing a test of its three-screen data for all the broadcast networks and some cable networks in the fall and plans to begin enlarging its sample to the generally accepted Media Rating Council standards beginning next year. The plan is to have 50,000 people in the top 20 markets included in the sample by 2013.
Mr. Wurtzel said that while NBC doesn’t see the network’s TAMi becoming a currency for advertising deals, the network will be using the data to help sell advertising packages in the 2010 and 2012 Olympics.
The network also plans to share the information with clients that have already invested in cross-platform campaigns.
Marketers are eager to see the data.
“We think NBC has put together a comprehensive measurement package that aligns actual media usage with consumer survey metrics,” said Joe Goode, senior VP for global marketing at Bank of America.
Bank of America has been a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic teams since 1992. This year it’s running a program called America’s Cheer, using on-air exposure to drive fans to the Web to create supportive messages for U.S. athletes.
The athletes then can see the messages and respond, forming an online community.
The bank also is promoting a product called U.S. team banking, which makes a donation to the U.S. Olympic Team’s training program for each transaction.
The NBC data will be used along with the bank’s own market research to evaluate the programs.
“This approach to measurement helps us get at how both the channels work individually and how they work in an integrated fashion,” Mr. Goode said.
Mr. Wurtzel said NBC has been working on a measurement plan for the Olympics for a while.
“For the past year and a half, what we’ve been doing is trying to cobble together essentially the mechanisms by which we can do it, and the reason that we have to do that is because there is no one place to call. You can’t call Nielsen or anybody else and say, ‘Give me cross-platform measurement.’ You have to figure out a way to tell that story with a lot of different methodologies.”
In addition to the familiar figures from Nielsen, NBC will be getting online numbers about users of NBCOlympics.com and Olympic mobile usage from Omniture, online demographic information from Quantcast and VOD usage data from Rentrak to complete its TAMi calculations about cumulative viewing during the Olympics.
At the same time, NBC has Knowledge Networks conducting what it calls a Multiplatform Consumption Study that will survey 500 people a day about how they watched the Olympics the previous day. A “focus group on steroids” conducted by Open Mind strategy will ask viewers how they felt about the coverage.
“The idea here is to put some flesh on the bones of all the different reporting,” Mr. Wurtzel said. “We want to understand what they liked and didn’t like, why they used certain platforms. If some platforms didn’t work for them and some did, what are their reasons?”
NBC will be using IAG Research to survey consumers to gauge engagement and effectiveness of advertising on television and the Web.
Learning From Turin
During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, IAG did some research for NBC.
“What we found, for example, was that in one case, when a commercial that ran in the Olympics and at the same time during ‘American Idol,’ the lift on all the major metrics—awareness, engagement and so forth—was far greater on the Olympics,” Mr. Wurtzel said. “The advertisers really liked that.”
IAG also found that some ads performed 30% better during Olympics programming than in average prime-time programming.
And then there’s IMMI’s single-source data on multiplatform usage.
That data comes from a panel of about 40 people who agree to carry a specially designed cell phone that picks up audio cues from programming and advertising.
The result of all this research should be usable on both the programming and ad sales sides.
“We will have experience that nobody can have because nobody else has the Olympics,” Mr. Wurtzel said.