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Lessons From Sochi: Online is the New Starting Point for TV

February 12, 2014

In the last Winter Olympics, NBC only featured short online VOD clips. This year, NBC is streaming the all of the Olympic events, and also streaming via iPad App. That's a very strong indicator of the future of TV as a digital medium.

I'm not saying that because online viewership is taking over TV. In fact, TV viewership is doing just fine -- which is why TV continues to solidify its central role in the marketing plan. But more than ever, TV viewership is impacted by online engagement. That picture emerges when you look to the NBC research on the 2012 Olympics that bolstered its move for its current digital Olympics streaming. As the New York Times reports:

[NBC] research from the London Games found that the more devices on which people watched the Olympics, the more they watched television.

Someone watching the Olympics only on television breathed in 4 hours 19 minutes of coverage daily, according to the research. Add a personal computer or a laptop, and TV consumption rose to 4:28.

With a mobile phone added, TV viewing rose to five hours, and with a tablet tossed in, the average time watching TV shot up to 6:07.

It's not just the Olympics that show the online/offline relationship, either. Golf seems to show a similar trend. So do major TV shows -- with Netflix binge watching a possible key factor in record-breaking TV season premier viewerships of both Mad Men and Breaking Bad. People get hooked (or more deeply hooked) on a show through online channels, and then engage with them further on TV. Meanwhile, social media have long been cited as a key factor in the shows TV viewers watch.

This has a lot of ramifications for the business of advertising on TV, most critically around measurement and ratings. The industry is making real progress on making apples-to-apples comparisons between TV and digital formats -- like Nielsen OCR. But while that kind of comparison is critical, we'll need to push harder on analytics that go deeper online to understand how TV programming and digital channels interact. I'd say Twitter is a real leader here -- especially with developments like Twitter Nielsen TV ratings, which measure Twitter engagement around TV shows.

But Twitter/Nielsen is just the beginning -- both for Twitter, and for the advertising business overall. Cross-channel analytics and dashboarding that lets advertisers use digital numbers to drive TV spend is going to be an explosive area over the next few years.

There are also huge implications here for TV planning cycles. If online channels emerge overnight, and those same online channels are impacting online viewership, then planners will inevitably be reassessing inventory a lot more frequently. Yearly plans could go bi-annual; bi-annual plans could become a quarterly affair.
Put a little differently, I think the question for the media community to ask isn't whether TV or the Internet will win the video race, long-term. I think it's clear the TV will be the focal point of advertising for a good, long time. But TV is becoming one of many digitally-influenced channels. The question for TV marketing will be: how well can we integrate TV's digital side?

Whoever answers that question right, wins the gold.

Via Adage