Home Olympics: Only 0.2% of Viewers Exclusively Watch Online

Olympics: Only 0.2% of Viewers Exclusively Watch Online

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Olympics are off to a good, but not amazing start on the Internet. Over the first three days, NBC’s online coverage drew an average of 4.7 million viewers per day, with the numbers steadily rising over the weekend. So far, Sunday was the most watched day, with 5.1 million total users and 3.42 million streams. According to the same article, only 0.2% of all viewers exclusively used the Internet to watch the Games, while 90% used the traditional TV coverage exclusively and 10% used both the Internet and TV.

As we have pointed out before, this year’s Olympic Games represent a major departure from NBC’s traditionally conservative way of using the Internet for covering major sports events. While this year, NBC offers about 3,600 hours of live online coverage, the Turin games only saw 2 hours of live streaming video. Based on the numbers so far, it would seem that the online coverage is not detracting from the traditional TV coverage at all, but, at least for the majority of viewers, merely a secondary source for coverage. At the same time, though, it’s important to point out that, at least for American viewers, so far only the swimming competition has really seen a lot of excitement and media hype – as the Games continue, these early numbers could easily change very quickly.

Short Attention Span

There are a number of other interesting bits of information in the data from NBC, including that face that the average time people spent watching video on the NBC site so far is under 15 minutes and was as low as 10 minutes on Friday. This is very much in line with how people use Internet video on other sites like YouTube. NBC did not specify how many viewers watched the live coverage and how many of them just viewed already recorded clips. Judging from this number, it would almost seem as if most viewers wither decided to mostly watch prerecorded clips, or that they did not stick around for the live coverage for very long.

But What About the Experience?

Over the weekend, we had quite some time to play with NBC’s video player, and while the overall experience was good and the video quality was actually very good and the streams never stuttered once, the video player itself is a bit of a disappointment. Why, for example, is there no full-screen mode available?

Also, the much touted “Live Video Control Room,” where you can watch up to 4 streams at a time, is pretty much useless because of the miniscule size of the videos. Also, as Chris Albrecht points out, the user interface and navigation of the site is often confusing.

Overall, though, it seems these Olympic Games will hopefully change the way TV executives think about online coverage. Clearly, the online coverage is not detracting from TV viewership and if anything, is enhancing the way people relate to the events, especially in a year where the large time difference and the time-delay of the TV coverage become such an important issue. While the overall numbers for online viewership are maybe not as high as some others expected, we will have to see what happens during the week now, where many viewers might start watching the online streams from work.

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