Winter Olympics: Unique Digital Visitors Up 54% from Vancouver

Some of the top U.S. athletes have not measured up to expectations in their disciplines, but NBCUniversal’s multiplatform coverage of the Winter Olympics is performing very well.

NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus and NBCUniversal research president Alan Wurtzel in a presentation to reporters on Feb. 12 said the lessons learned from London 2012 Games – live-streaming action and more digital information drive more viewership to NBC’s primetime – are paying dividends again from Sochi, Russia.

“Our strategy of providing more live coverage across all our platforms is once again proving to be very appealing,” Lazarus said. “Viewers want event programming. There is no bigger event than the Olympics. Our multiplatform presentation style has clearly resonated with them,” he said.

Wurtzel talked about the model in play at the Games serving as template for media’s future.

“I think what you’re seeing are people who are watching it on digital and consuming it there, but they are circling back to television and TV leads us back to digital, and it’s a virtual circle,” he said. “I think that that’s a model for the way these businesses are going to be looking going forward. The Olympics has always been for us, kind of a glimpse into the future. While we’re seeing it now with the Olympics I think it’s fair to say that going forward we shouldn’t be surprised that this kind of behavior and the way in which media companies put their content out, I think is a terrific model.”

Over the first five nights of the Winter Olympics, the Opening Ceremony and four curated presentations of competition, NBC averaged 25.9 million primetime viewers, which Lazarus said exceeded expectations. That was up from 21.6 million from the Torino Games in 2006, the last time a Winter Games was hosted in Europe., and off slightly from the 26.4 million in Vancouver in 2010, when most of NBC’s primetime fare was presented live in the States.

National cable sports network NBCSN, in its first go as a Winter Games telecaster, has registered record viewership with its live daytime coverage – including expansive figure skating action – on each successive day when measured against its deliveries from London.

Digitally, the NBCU executives reported that through Monday, Feb. 10 more than 30 million unique visitors had accessed three main online platforms,, NBC Sports Live app and its Highlights and Results app. That was  up 54% from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Users have been attracted to an array of content, including viral clips and live-streaming of event coverage. “We had 2.5 million streams for Olga Graf, the somewhat unfortunate Russian skater’s wardrobe mishap,” said Wurtzel.  “We had 1.5 million for the Indian luger who climbed back on his sled and 1.2 million for the ever-popular Russian Police Choir rendition of ‘Get Lucky. ‘ ”

There were 600,000 concurrent streaming viewers on Feb. 11 screening snowboarding icon Shaun White’s failed attempt to threepeat as the gold medalist in the halfpipe, the second largest Olympic delivery with that metric behind the women’s soccer final in London that drew 700,000 simultaneous streamers.

As expected, people are flanking their TV viewing with multiple devices. Findings from a group of 300 panelists indicate that about two-thirds are watching TV and using at least one other device. A further breakdown suggests that within that group, 49% use TV and one other device, while one-third use TV and three other devices. Some 15% are using four platforms.

Wurtzel noted that with about 70%, the smartphone is “clearly the device that people use most often to follow the Olympics. About 60 percent said they’re using tablets and 40 percent are using a PC/laptop, which kind of confirms the fact that the use of PCs and laptops are beginning to decline in favor of tablets.

Asked about the authenticated devices that had been put in play, Lazarus said he didn't have a numver of devices, "but what we are seeing right now is over a 50% success rate as people authenticate, which is up from about a third success rate in London. So I think a combination of people becoming more use to authenticating, people trying hard to make sure they know how to and our laying out and people understanding what they had to do in order to become an authenticated customer has led to that success rate. That’s an industry initiative. And while it’s good for us here, it’s good for the rest of our business too as we move towards authenticating all of our sports products and as the industry moves towards authenticating more and more of its television product."

All told, NBCOlympics is making more than 1,000 hours of live-stream action, covering every moment from all 15 sports and 98 competitions, available from Sochi, the vast majority of which is only accessible to verified video subscribers.

Some 9.9 million devices were authenticated during the London Games.