NBCs Olympic-Sized Risk

I love companies that recognize the world is changing and are willing to take risks to meet that change head on.

In 13 days the Summer Olympics will open.  Since 1964, NBC has been the lead network in broadcasting these Games.  Dick Ebersol is a legend in sports broadcasting and has been the brains behind NBCs Olympic coverage for years.

Recently Comcast bought NBC and purchased the rights to the Olympics.  Their pitch?  “We will broadcast every event, live.”  Every event will be streamed live over the Internet, a total of 5535 hours.  The 1996 Atlanta Games had a total of 171 hours.  Four years ago, the Beijing Olympics had a total of 3100 hours.  NBC will broadcast nearly double that amount this year.

So, whats the risk?  To be financially successful, NBC has to capture viewership in prime time, long after the London events have finished.  Will people want to watch re-runs when they already know the outcome?  NBC/Comcast has made a multi-billion dollar bet on the integration of the Internet and Broadcast media.  They are betting that providing more CONTENT and giving people more CHOICES will be a winning strategy.  MORE content and MORE choices are a key business model of the 21st century.  But it is risky, especially when you are an old line company that has been profitable doing things the old way for a very long time.  The legend, Dick Ebersol, resigned over this decision.  The stakes are huge.

You may rise early and catch your favorite events live via the Internet.  You may wait until the evening broadcast of the most popular events and best stories of the day.  Either way, you will not only be watching sports history, but broadcast history.  If NBC can make this successful, the implications for media will be enormous.  Stay tuned.

Kudos to Comcast/NBC for recognizing and embracing the new normal and taking a risk to move into a new age.  For more information, check out the article in today’s Wall Street Journal.

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