NBC sets online Olympic viewing record

NBC made a great deal of noise prior to the current Winter Olympics in Sochi talking about how easy it was going to be to watch events live via digital platforms as long as you subscribed to one of its broadcast partners cable or satellite package.

Then after the events started to occur a news blackout apparently went into effect, the network touted its broadcast viewership numbers, which initially were very impressive, but completely ignored the digital data.

I have yet to see a detailed breakdown but they are now providing some numbers that show that the effort to provide different types of viewer access to the Olympics, no real surprise.

So far there has been a total of 5.7 million hours of video viewed across all of the supported digital platforms. Of that total 80 percent has been viewers watching events live. The remaining 20 percent were for fans watching exclusive highlights.

It is kind of surprising as to what, well with maybe one exception, were the top highlights viewed. No medal winners really. They are: 1. Russian speed skater Olga Graf’s wardrobe near-malfunction: 2.6 million views; 2. Russian Police Choir performs Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” in Opening Ceremony: 1.7 million; 3. Luger Shiva Keshavan falls off sled, completes run: 1.5 million.

The Olympics started with record setting broadcast viewership and it is remaining strong for the most part, but has shown signs of weakening, possibly because of all of the news about warm weather and melting snow. However solid events like last weekend’s USA vs. Russia hockey matchup continue to be record setters.

Of course NBC has other concerns at the game as well. Talk has started as to who will replace Bob Costas as host in the future. As you probably know Costas missed some time behind the mike due to a very bad case of red eye. I may be in the minority here but I really do not care too much who is manning the booth for highlights and human interest stories — I just want to see competition.

No Surprise: NBC’s Online Olympics a Huge Success

According to multiple reports from an NBC press call today, the network’s massive effort to put the Olympics online is an equally massive success, especially on mobile platforms. Paid Content’s Robert Andrews has a complete wrapup of the numbers, but the ones that stick out for us here at Mobile Sports Report are (and these are all digital numbers, not broadcast):

64 MILLION total video streams served so far

5.3 MILLION hours of live video

45 Percent of all digital video streams are coming from a phone or tablet, and not an online laptop or desktop

What this tells us — and what we hope NBC and other old school broadcasters can digest — is that despite massive online consumption of content, the golden-goose prime time broadcasts aren’t harmed. In fact prime time is even bigger and better than ever for NBC, despite all the criticisms which we believe are warranted.

It seems chic for a lot of media types to surf the second wave of follow-me journalism, namely criticizing the criticizers for being a bunch of Twitterheads who don’t matter to “real people” who have “real jobs” and can only watch TV late at night. To that we say nerts. It’s pretty obvious from the online numbers that there is an entirely new audience out there who wants to consume content on their own schedule, or as close to real time as possible. Those people who smugly say Twitter and phone-watchers “don’t matter” need to get out of their own stereotypes and realize the world of the future is going to be one where more, not fewer, people get their content through mobile devices, with perhaps those mobile devices and their connectivity powering that big screen grandpa used to call “the TV.”

I’ll start the third wave — the critics of the critics are wrong. NBC’s own numbers are showing that online and digital can be huge without detracting from prime-time production numbers. There’s a whole new audience out there who consumes sports on mobile devices, and they are right to stand up for what they want, telling broadcasters like NBC directly through the mediums they live in. They are the growth of sports media. What is your sport doing to find them?

USGA Continues Pioneering Online Coverage of U.S. Open

Eleven years ago, as the U.S. Open forged into its second century, the United States Golf Association simultaneously catapulted into new media technology.

It was only one hole with one announcer at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. But the occasion — live streaming (webcasting) — was a gateway for fans who weren’t in attendance or watching on television to still view the country’s national championship.

“The technology was there, but no one in sports at that particularly time was doing a webcast, especially at the major event like the U.S. Open,” said Bill Lacey, USGA Manager of Digital Media Development. “We had great fan appeal and that’s what led to the first webcast.

“The reason it was one hole and one announcer? It was all new to us. We were learning the technology. It was on the fly, basically. It was the USGA dipping our toes in the water.”

The first webcast, while experimental, occurred at the par-3, 175 6th hole of the 101st U.S. Open. The announcer was Roger Twibell, and the new adventure worked.

“We had about 200,000 streams, and we felt like it was an affirmation that this was something,” said Jessica Carroll, the USGA Managing Director of Information Technology and Digital Media, of the initial webcast.

Video streaming of the U.S. Open has steadily expanded since its debut. Two holes with two announcers were involved for two years, then bonus coverage on certain holes was featured.

Five years ago, “marquee” coverage of certain groups of golfers began. In 2008, for the Monday 18-hole playoff between Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines near San Diego, Calif., the site’s live stream “broke the Internet,” according to Lacey.

“We did 650,000 concurrent streams,” he said. “And basically one of the Internet backbone providers went offline the traffic was so heavy.”

Now, online audiences for golf are big and getting bigger, with the PGA claiming a half-million to a million streams for each one of the tournaments it operates its Live@ bonus coverage. The USGA, Carroll said, is seeing similar growth in online video consumption.

“Overall, if we’re looking at the broad spectrum, it’s just a constant upstream,” she said. “I don’t remember specific numbers from last year, but this year we’re up 100 percent.”

The second and final day of online-only marquee group coverage of this year’s U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco is scheduled at 7:44 a.m. and 1:18 p.m. Friday (both Pacific Time). The morning time will feature the group of Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell. The afternoon threesome will be Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson. The online coverage is also available via the U.S. Open mobile device app, in either the Android or Apple iOS version.

It’s yet to be determined what, if any, online coverage will be over the weekend. But according to the USGA, the big online watchers are those still at their own offices during the workweek.

“Our audience is really an audience at work; they don’t have access,” said Lacey. “They’re in their offices and they can’t watch the U.S. Open. But it’s going on while they are working. We went to where they are. They’re at their desks and we stream right to their desks.”

The U.S. Open is currently the only USGA event with a webcast. And while there are no current plans for additional events, it’s inevitable with continued increased Internet viewership and the advancement of other social media applications.

“When the stream goes on, people are staying on,” said Carroll. “It’s almost like they want to spend the day with us. They really stick with it. I think that’s just kind of an interesting concept. They become part of the U.S. Open experience, even though they’re not physically here.”

James Raia is a California-based journalist who writes about sports and leisure. Visit his golf site at golftribune.com

No Surprise: PGA Sees Huge Leap in Online Video Consumption

Here at Mobile Sports Report we know that many of you like to watch golf online. We know that because basically anything we write about where to watch golf gets good traffic. Now the PGA has provided some facts to back up our observations: According to the PGA, viewership of its Live@ online live golf action coverage is up more than 100 percent compared to 2011, part of an overall traffic surge to the PGATour.com site.

Mobile app activity is also up by a triple-digit margin, thanks to the PGA’s excellent Android, iPhone and iPad apps. Some highlights from the press release:

• An all-time record quarter with more than 5.8 million average monthly unique users, up 40 percent vs. 2011.
• March 2012 set an all-time record with 7.5 million monthly unique users, an increase of 62 percent vs. March 2011.
• An increase of 105 percent for video consumption over last year.
• PGA TOUR mobile products have also seen triple digit growth (139 percent over last year).

Now what we need to see from the PGA is a more thorough and comprehensive online strategy — currently the tour only broadcasts select tournaments online — perhaps embracing the wonderful online coverage from the Masters and making that the PGA standard. An online fan can only hope.