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NBC goes beyond TV with Olympics experience
[July 25, 2012]

NBC goes beyond TV with Olympics experience

Jul 25, 2012 (The Akron Beacon Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Call the 2012 London Olympics the mobility games.

Ultimately, NBC, the rights holder for the Olympics, is concerned with getting as many eyes as possible in as many ways as possible on their presentation of the international sporting event.

And even since the Beijing Olympics four years ago, technology has exploded to the point that most Americans can be reached anywhere at any time with the right device and the right connection.

Yes, there will be traditional TV with 272 { hours of coverage on the Peacock Network (WKYC, Channel 3, locally) or cable that will have more than 750 hours across NBCUniversal's assorted stations, including Spanish language channel, Telemundo.

But this could be the year when mobile flexes its muscle as a mainstream medium. According to media research firm Forrester Research, smartphone penetration stood at 11 percent nationwide at the end of 2008. That figure had risen to 54.9 percent by March of this year, according to the Nielsen Company.

Everyone questioned the wisdom of the tablet when Apple released the first iPad in 2010. Less than two years later, the tablet business is growing exponentially with 16 percent of U.S. adults owning one as of March.

"It's an evolution. And every Olympics either technology of comfort, based on our experience with prior Olympics, enables us or certainly we begin to consider how to distribute that content further," said Jim Bell, executive producer of NBC's Olympic telecast.

The evolution, or continued revolution began last week when NBCU released two apps for Apple and Android devices.

NBC Olympics: Will be home to highlights, schedules, TV and online listings, athlete profiles and a prime-time companion.

NBC Olympics Live Extra: For Olympics junkies, every athletic event will be available via this app, but expect to have to verify your subscription to video providers, meaning cable, satellite and telco firms such as AT&T U-verse.

Add these to assorted partnerships including with social media giant Facebook, which will host photos, polls and exclusive content, and the chance that anyone will be able to avoid NBCU's blanket of coverage is remote.

That is what the media company, which merged with Comcast in January 2011, hopes given the stakes involved.

Internal analysts for NBCU expect more than 200 million viewers over the course of the Olympics' 17-day run, making it one of the top-five events of all time.

It's also one of the most expensive, according to reports.

NBCU paid $1.18 billion, the most ever for the games, to cover the London edition, according to the New York Times. The network is on course to sell $950 million in ads and $1 billion remains possible. But even with that rosy possibility, the network is looking at losses of as much as $250 million.

"Our ad sales business is very strong," said Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, during a recent teleconference. "We have contributions from our distribution partners in terms of the economics of the games.

"The jury's still out. We're not predicting that we will necessarily be profitable. But we do know that from the time the Comcast NBC merger took place the financial position of this game, of these games will be significantly enhanced from that original plan." But the ultimate benefit goes beyond the games themselves. Comcast, upon acquiring NBCU, immediately began the tough task of playing catch-up with the competition. Other over-the-air networks -- ABC, CBS and Fox -- were affiliated with a cable sports entity, NBC was not.

Comcast rebranded its Versus sports channel NBC Sports Network this past January, a network that's home to the NHL, a league on the cusp of imploding once again due to labor strife, the Tour de France, IndyCar racing and Major League Soccer. That channel's 155 { hours of programming will go a long way toward raising its profile.

The London Olympics is one huge gamble for NBCU. If it doesn't pay off, it won't be for lack of trying.

___ (c)2012 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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