The Beijing Games are not just going to be about the over 10,000 athletes competing in over 300 events in an attempt to etch their names in the history of the biggest sporting stage in the world. The 29th Modern Olympiad also serves as the set of the “Most Ambitious Single Media Project in History.”
“What this really is is a billion dollar research lab.” These are the words of the President of research of National Broadcasting Company (NBC) Universal speaking about the Beijing Olympics that start the next week. The “dot com boom” has taken its toll on virtually all major forms of popular media of the earlier days: newspapers, radio, and television. The Peacock, a $250 million global fund founded by GE Commercial Finance – Media, Communications & Entertainment and NBC Universal, was said to be one of the worst sufferers of the change in demographics, with rumors of GE planning to offload the network spreading through Wall Street. In possibly a last ditch bid to save the network’s future, NBC bought the rights to broadcast the Games for a record $894 million dollars. Profits are not what they are looking for; they just want to understand the modern viewer (many of whom are switching to the internet from the idiot box), and the new platforms to take advantage of (on demand online videos, mobile streams, etc.). After all, roughly $70 billion of advertising is claimed to be at stake.
The most important part of NBC’s “research” is going to be TAMI. Many people in the industry feel that TV networks aren’t counting the audience in the right way any longer, which results in the grim outcome. TV is now watched on the Internet, cable on-demand services and digital video-recorders, but the ratings from these platforms are counted separately. TAMI, or Total Audience Measurement Index, is a new system developed by NBC which they plan to use during the Games to collect extensive data which would point to a “one big NBC number”, instead of smaller numbers from the various platforms.
The system hasn’t been perfected yet, but NBC feels that the Games would provide the best test to it. They are relying on several data collection agencies (including heavyweight Nielson Co., and others that monitor internet and mobile streaming) to analyze the results TAMI provides. If TAMI does go on to be a success, advertisers would be provided the clearest figures of television audience, on all platforms. And, more importantly, the television could be saved from the fatal disease that it is said to be suffering from.
Figure crunching: Beijing ’08 vs Rome ’68, the first televised Olympics
Broadcast rights price:
Rome ’68: $600,000 (CBS)
Beijing ’08: $894 million (NBC)
Live Broadcast time:
Rome ’68: 0 hours (max 20 hours permitted to CBS)
Beijing ’08: 2325 hours (planned, on all platforms, including English and French networks, cable, internet, and NBC’s partner TNS)
Size of Crew:
Rome ’68: 50
Beijing ’08: 2900