Tag Archives: olympics

What’s wrong with this picture?

I read 2 articles yesterday about the upcoming Olympics and they confused me.  Actually, “confuse” might be the wrong word but I’ll save that for a minute.  I should say upfront that I think the Olympics are a wonderful event – I’ve been to several and loved them and watch them on TV as well.  But the issue raised indirectly by these two articles may be, in my opinion, the downfall of them.  I’ll let you guys decide. Continue reading

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Filed under Reality checks

Careful with that fact, Eugene

I know it’s early in the week for an obscure Pink Floyd reference so let me explain.  The Olympics ended the other day and Nielsen is reporting some very large viewership numbers.  In fact, according to the Hollywood Reporter…

NBC Universal smashed yet another historic ratings benchmark: The Beijing Olympics is the most-watched U.S. television event of all time.  Through 16 days of coverage, 211 million viewers tuned in to the Olympics on NBC Universal’s broadcast and cable outlets, according to NBC citing Nielsen Media Research.  That’s 2 million more than watched the 1996 Atlanta Games, the previous all-time record-holder.

Lovely story, good for NBC, go USA.  But let’s spend a few seconds to look behind the numbers as an example of how one always needs to ask questions about any statistic.  There are roughly 115 million homes in the US and nearly 113 million of them have a TV (112,800,000 out of 114,890,000 to be precise). There are multiple viewers per home so there are around 285 million persons 2+ in the universe base.  I don’t have the 1996 people estimates but I think it’s fair to assume that ratio hasn’t changed very much.

In 1996, there were 97,540,000 homes and 95,900,000 TV homes.  So whilst TV homes grew nearly 17 million since 1996, and the number of people in those homes probably grew by 30+ million, Olympics viewing grew only by 2 million viewers.  Now, is that as impressive?  I’d say yes, given the fragmentation of media since 1996 but one could also argue that Olympics viewing has lagged, with 10% – 15% of universe growth actually reflected in viewing.  Heck, you’d expect a 15% pop in viewing just from the growth of homes.

The point is that in business, one can’t just hear a number and nod one’s head.  Ask questions, look for the numbers behind the number.  Challenge whomever is delivering the number to you.  Great executives will beat you to the punch and make sure every number they deliver is in perspective.

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks


I was up way too late last night watching the great performances by Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson.  Of course, as a soccer fan, I’m missing the USA/Canada Women’s match since it’s not on TV and as a Cablevision subscriber, I have no access to NBCOlympics.com video.  Yes, I’m aware that it’s pretty easy to spoof the system so one can watch but that’s not this morning’s point.

NBC is charging cable operators for a supplemental package of channels for the Olympics and the online broadband site.  While many operators have said OK (and I’m wondering how they’re passing along the costs to consumers), Cablevision said no thanks.  I have no issue with this- it’s the same decision as they and others make with respect to new channels and broadband packages such as ESPN360 all the time.

My issue is that history shows that consumers don’t like gatekeepers and will find ways around them.  AOL’s walled garden is gone.  Others are as well.  ISP’s have been fairly open to date (I say fairly since some of where Comcast is heading bothers me) and wireless networks are slowly opening.   Again, I have no quarrel with Cablevision’s decision.  But why didn’t SOMEONE ask me is I wanted to pay for it?  Cable guys hate ala carte pricing, NBC wants to get paid on the whole of a footprint rather than by individual users, but in the end, in theory, my sleepy wife misses some great performances.  Sure, she can watch highlights, but if NBCOlympics.com has any archived full-length stuff she’s out of luck.

By the way, why does NBC have you install Silverlight (required to watch) before they let you know if you are able to see live video?  Nice benefit to our friends in Redmond but sort of sneaky.

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Filed under Huh?, Thinking Aloud

Getting What You Paid For

There is an article this morning in the Wall Street Journal entitled Big Sponsors Are Upset Over Visibility at Olympics.  Basically, a number of the official sponsors have spent millions of dollars on building corporate experiences at the Olympic Green.  These experiences are designed to have the folks walking around Beijing interact with the company in some way.  In prior Olympics, the foot traffic to the Green has been massive and the partners were expecting 200,000+ visitors a day.  One problem: the Chinese, always security conscious, have limited visits to the Green to those holding event tickets, thereby making the traffic actually showing up at these very expensive pavilions about 20% of what the partners were expecting.  Doh!

I’ve always believed that contracts were less important that relationships.  That said, how is it possible that this issue wasn’t discussed and documented, either with the Chinese or the partners?  Who thought it was a good idea to rely on prior practice (“Gee, we’ve always given people unfettered access”) in a country where things are not always what they seem and a government that is going to do things its own way, period?

It’s one thing when the IOC tells the press that there will be no censorship of the internet by the Chinese and there is – the press isn’t paying the bills.  It’s quite another when the folks who ARE paying the bills get screwed.  My favorite quote:

“Here in Beijing, there have been a few who have requested that more people be admitted into what are known as the ‘Olympic common areas’ and the organizing committee has been working to find appropriate means of doing this, which we welcome,” said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies.

I know from working with a few other international organizations that this is the polite way to say “buzz off” so maybe the relationship thing isn’t working either (obviously there isn’t anything in a contract).  The games are over soon – every day counts to amortize the investment.  Lost sales aren’t coming back.  Maybe the sponsors aren’t either!

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?