NBC Olympics’ Digital Plans for Rio 2016 Include Number of Notable Firsts

For NBC Sports’ Digital Media team, approaching the biennial Olympic Games isn’t just a matter of coming up with new ways to reach fans on their mobile devices; it’s keeping up with the new technologies that, two years ago in Sochi and four years ago in London, didn’t even exist.

rio2016“In London, we had just launched our mobile app,” said Rick Cordella, SVP/GM, Digital Media, NBC Sports Group, at NBC’s recent Rio 2016 Press Preview event in New York City. “It’s funny because, when we went [into this year’s Olympic] trials, [people asked] what did you stream last time? We didn’t have a mobile app or a tablet app at all. This is the first time we had an actual app for the trials. This year, we have connected TVs that didn’t exist in Sochi.”

This year’s Olympics will be the first Games available on connected TVs. Pay-TV customers will be able to watch authenticated streaming coverage using Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and Win10; according to the network, additional connected TV platforms will be announced closer to the start of the Games.

In addition, for the first time, NBC Olympics will stream all broadcast-network content on NBC and Telemundo — including the primetime network show — to desktops, mobile devices, and connected TVs. Cable channels Bravo, CNBC, Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), NBC UNIVERSO (Spanish language), and USA Network will also be streamed, and all streamed and VOD content will carry closed captioning — another first for the Peacock.

In total, NBC Olympics will stream a record 4,500 hours to NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app, powered by NBC Sports’ Playmaker Media, via TV Everywhere. That sum includes live streaming of all competition across 34 sports, simul-stream of the linear telecast on NBC’s nine television networks, and concurrent streams from sports with multiple fields of play: gymnastics, track and field, and tennis.

Once again, any video over five minutes long will be authenticated. NBC will provide users a Temporary Pass to stream 30 minutes of coverage without inputting their pay-TV credentials on their first visit and five minutes for every subsequent visit.

“Today, digital is a viewing platform,” said NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel. “With a live day from 8:00 a.m. until midnight, we expect consumption of the Olympics to soar throughout that period on both our web and mobile apps. These are optimized for viewing. … Whether it’s the core fan of a sport, it’s there every second. If you like tennis, you can watch three courts at one time. And then, if you’re just away from your television and you want to catch what’s on NBCSN, it’s there as well.”

Building on London’s Legacy
NBC Olympics’ digital strategy has evolved significantly since its debut in London. This year’s coverage plan includes 1,000 more hours than were streamed in London — the first time all competition was streamed live — and a boost in bitrate from 2.5 Mbps to more than 7 Mbps across all platforms.

This year, all OBS-produced streams will feature auto-synchronized data overlays for a more robust viewing experience.

“We’ll have data over the screen — [for example,] what lane is Michael Phelps in? what’s the splits as he hits different walls? — which is pretty cool,” said Cordella. “We’re trying to add more context around the live streaming. TV is constrained by pixels and time. We can do whatever we want on digital, so it’s a great canvas.”

Much of the live streaming will be produced by OBS, especially coverage of events not televised by NBC. In addition to the live streaming, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will offer extensive video-on-demand coverage, including full-event replays, short-form highlights, athlete profiles, and features.

NBC Olympics’ Highlights Factory returns for Rio 2016, but, instead of occupying 30 Rock’s famed Studio 8H as it did for London 2012, it will take over NBC Sports’ Stamford, CT, facility. Approximately 350 staffers will work out of Stamford throughout the Games, with more than 100 staffers charged with cutting highlights for NBC’s VOD offering as well as for its social-media accounts.

“It’s a massive, massive operation to pull all this off, but we’re excited,” said Cordella. “We’re excited that we can do this and have a chance to work on a great project like the Olympics.”

Replacement or Complement? It’s Both
According to Cordella, NBC Olympics’ digital strategy isn’t designed to be just a first screen or a second screen. Although he believes that the optimal viewing experience continues to be on the largest screen available to fans, the digital offering serves a very valuable purpose.

“A lot of the content that we stream is because it’s not available on TV,” says Cordella. “People can now consume badminton and race walking and all the other great sports that, historically at least, you haven’t been able to see [on TV], so that’s one aspect of it. The other aspect is, this is a 17-day event. You’re not in front of your TV for 17 days, so whether you’re on vacation somewhere or you’re at the supermarket, now you have this screen on your phone. It’s incremental viewing of the best stuff, and then, when you can get in front of the TV, [you watch there].”

However, because the average fan watches a first screen while scrolling through a second, NBC Olympics will complement its NBC Sports live-streaming app with an NBC Olympics: Rio News and Results app containing video highlights, TV listings, medal standings, athlete bios, and more. The app also features a “Primetime Companion” for fans to use while watching NBC’s primetime coverage.

Covering the Games From Every Angle
In addition to its extensive live-event coverage, NBC Olympics will produce two digital-only programs: Gold Zone and Daily Dismount. Gold Zone, returning for its third Olympics, will direct fans to the best live action happening at any given moment. Daily Dismount, new for Rio 2016, will provide live post-event coverage after every day of gymnastics competition.

NBC’s social-media–focused, short-form video series Ever Wonder will take a look at some of the Games’ curiosities, and a digital news desk will provide up-to-the-minute news and highlights from each day’s events in Rio.

For more on NBC Olympics’ production plans, CLICK HERE. And look to SVG’s SportTech Blog: Live From the Rio 2016 Olympics for onsite coverage throughout the Games!

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