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The Olympics have turned into more of a social media spectacle than a TV spectacle, and NBC is perfectly OK with that. It is dedicating the lion’s share of its online efforts to pumping out video content for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat. At a time when Internet users prefer video content to just about any other type of content, that strategy makes sense.
Plus, if you look at the statistics from the 2016 Rio Olympics, it is simply astounding at how much Olympics-related social media content people are prepared to consume. At the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, people sent out 187 million tweets with the #Rio2016 hashtag, and that resulted in 75 billion Twitter views. Overall, there were 1.5 billion Facebook interactions. The NBC Olympics Facebook page alone received 600 million video views. And 35 million Snapchat users sent 2.2 billion snaps (that’s 230 million minutes of content!).
The shift to video at the 2018 Olympic
What’s different this year is that NBC is apparently doubling down on its video strategy. It will air as many events as possible “live” on TV. But it has a very active social media video strategy in place to stream clips on Facebook, post videos to Twitter and YouTube, and post snaps on Snapchat. In fact, NBC is putting an emphasis on getting as much video content up on social media as soon as the action takes place.
The end of spoiler alerts
In part, that’s due to the time zone problems created by the 2018 Winter Olympics taking place in South Korea, which is 14 hours ahead of U.S. East Coast time. Unlike the Rio Olympics, which took place in roughly the same time zone as much of the United States, the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics required a different approach. NBC learned from the 2012 London Summer Olympics, when hashtags like #NBCFail started to trend on social media, due to NBC trying to hold onto as much content as possible for primetime TV, even when the action had already taken place 5 hours earlier.
So this means an end to “spoiler alerts.” In the social media era, it’s now expected that people will find out who wins Olympic Gold via Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat, so why try to build any suspense around it? Instead, NBC is embracing the fact that the action happens 14 hours ahead of EST. It is not going to hide any content in the hopes of fully “monetizing” it in primetime. Live video is the new way to go.
A new way of thinking about media
In many ways, the social media and TV worlds are converging at this year’s Winter Olympics. (Maybe not as much as North Korea and South Korea marching together at the Opening Ceremony, but still impressive). The ability to stream high-quality video content on social media platforms means that many viewers no longer care if they are watching the action on the big TV or on a tiny mobile screen – they just want to see the action, and they want to see it before any of their friends. As long as people are watching, NBC can attract advertisers, and that’s really all that matters.