Jim Williams: The first truly 'On-Demand Olympics'

Alan Wurtzel, president of research for NBC Universal, calls his role in Vancouver a “billion-dollar lab initiative.” Wurtzel and his crew of world-class number-crunchers are tracking our Olympic viewing habits the same way The Elias Sports Bureau breaks down baseball stats.

Are the Olympics still a traditionally family-oriented event?

Wurtzel » Yes, and the numbers show that more than half of all Americans have watched the Vancouver Olympics on the networks of NBC (171 million). That's 22 percent more viewers than watched the entire 2009 season of “American Idol” (140 million for 39 separate telecasts). Plus, our research shows that 77 percent of parents say they use the Olympics to teach their kids values. Seventy-six percent agree that “the Olympics give me an opportunity to spend quality time together with my family.”

NBC has invested big time in the development of new media with both NBCOlympics.com as well as NBC Mobile for smartphones. Are you seeing an increase there?

Wurtzel » We are seeing a huge growth there. People are watching more events via broadband on the Web site, and there is a water cooler effect. Many people are using the Internet to view things they didn't see on television. Ninety-three percent of people who watched Apolo Ohno's silver-medal video online did not see it on television. The Internet also helps consumers relive the moment of events they did watch on television. Forty-four percent of online consumers who watched Johnny Weir skate his short performance already had seen it first on television. We also launched a mobile application for smartphones, [and] we have had 1.1 million users of the new app.

So people are watching the Olympics on their laptops and their TVs at the same time?

Wurtzel » Yes, many people are accessing the Olympic Games on television, on their PCs, laptops and mobile devices all at once. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Simultaneous, synchronous use across platforms complements, not cannibalizes, each other.

Facebook and Twitter also have been huge during the Vancouver Games. I strongly urge you to go to NBCOlympics.com while you are watching the Games on TV. You will see a constant ongoing live Twitter feed that allows you to become an online commentator, sharing your thoughts with the other viewers.

Also there are many cool things on the site, including a DVR player that allows you to move forward or to replay the action you want to see. There are hours of video to view at your leisure. So these truly are the “On-Demand Olympics.”

It should be noted that Wurtzel has the help of Arbitron, Omniture and Comscore online measurement — plus a number of other research companies that compose “the billion-dollar lab initiative.”

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this! on washingtonexaminer.com.

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