Olympian research effort at NBC

Anticipating the largest amount of coverage in history

NEW YORK -- In an attempt to measure consumption of what at 3,600 hours will be the largest amount of Olympics coverage in history, NBC Universal is pulling out all the stops.

The company, which has more than $1 billion in ad revenue riding on the Beijing Games, will announce Monday the closely guarded specifics of its 17 days of Olympics coverage. Not only will it easily dwarf the 171 hours available 12 years ago on NBC, the coverage will extend to near-constant coverage on NBC, Telemundo, USA, Oxygen, MSNBC, CNBC and Bravo, plus 2,200 hours of online streaming video and content available on VOD and mobile platforms.

It will be, in a word, overwhelming.

"There is no event that can match this from a research perspective," NBC Uni research chief Alan Wurtzel said. "Every single platform will be used in a way they've never been used before. Even platforms that are small right now, like wireless, will have maximal use."

Wurtzel's team wants to figure out how many people are consuming Olympic content in ways besides traditional TV. NBC Uni will contract with Nielsen Media Research for a host of daily metrics, the viewership and demo data that the industry is used to. But it's adapting a tool it developed for other uses -- called Total Audience Measurement Index, or TAMi -- to help understand the big picture.

NBC is planning to turn around -- with the help of key research partners -- daily data on who's watching on TV; unique users; page views; video streams online and mobile; and VOD metrics.

Also key to the process is a daily survey of 500 people -- a total of 8,500 throughout the Games -- to uncover out-of-home consumption and individual media habits. Plus, a single-source panel of 40-50 people will wear a passive measurement device owned by Integrated Media Measurement Inc. to track, in essence, their exposure to the Olympics. And NBC will ask two focus groups about the platforms.

The online survey will give self-reported data to NBC, which will be of use in projections. But the smaller panel working with IMMI will allow researchers to dig much deeper, providing data through the passive devices that will pick up Olympics content on TV, the Web and mobile. The recruited subjects are people deeply interested in the Games.

"We will be able to take these people over 17 days and follow what they do, in home, out of home, on television, on the Internet and on wireless," Wurtzel said. "If this works, I think it has profound impact on how we measure all media going forward."

The IMMI technology was used for a research project surrounding NBC's series "Heroes," tracking whether participants were exposed to special preview footage of a movie during the show and whether they saw the film during its opening weekend.

The final effort likely will convene in New York and Cleveland and combine user diaries, in-depth interviews and focus groups. These people have agreed to be contacted regularly during the Olympics.

Meanwhile, NBC hasn't shied away from determining viewers' attitudes and awareness in the months leading to the Aug. 8 opening. Execs were especially interested in trying to find out whether the news coverage of the protests in Tibet and around the world surrounding the Olympic torch would affect U.S. viewers. Wurtzel said that about 90% of respondents to an online survey said those developments would not have an impact.

There was also a weekly awareness study. Wurtzel said about 75%-80% of those surveyed intend to watch at least some of the Games. "It's totally tracking with previous Olympics," he said. "The intent to view is actually a little higher than some previous Olympics."