Olympic Strategy:

The Need for Channel Diversification in a Changing Broadcasting Landscape

Olympic Strategy: The Need for Channel Diversification in a Changing Broadcasting Landscape

The Olympics are one of the most televised and watched events: according to The Nielsen Company, 4.7 billion viewers (over two-thirds of the world’s population) watched the 2008 Beijing Games.[1] The trend continued as the 2012 London Games “became the most-watched event in U.S. television history.”[2] From a live TV viewership, the 2016 Rio Games seriously underperformed preceding Olympics, with overall TV viewership during the first 9 nights down 15.5% from 2012![3]

Taken alone, these measures should be alarming. However, these reductions do not mean that Americans are suddenly less interested in this ancient sports spectacular. Rather, these shifts in viewership are reflective of the changing ways in which Americans consume media. For example, the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, and the availability of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, has resulted in fewer Americans turning on the TV.

Recognizing this shift in viewer behavior, NBC, the exclusive Olympics broadcaster in the U.S., responded by diversifying its coverage platforms and channels. In addition to offering live televised coverage, NBC offered simultaneous live-streams, made videos of past events available online, and added access via smartphone and tablet apps with plans for both non-subscribers and subscribers. This adaptive approach allowed otherwise alienated segments of the population to be recaptured by providing them access to content in their preferred methods channels. Initial reports have shown this strategy to be a huge success: in the first 9 days of the 2016 Games alone, “online users…streamed 1.86 billion minutes of NBC’s Rio 2016 coverage, topping the combined number for the London and Sochi games.”[4]

NBC’s 2016 broadcasting strategy was not a game-time decision; rather, because they had studied their customers prior to August 2016, they were able to provide a full array of programs that responded to each segment’s needs. For example, this national shift in viewer behavior has been largely caused by the Millennials segment, which account for 23.4% of the U.S. population[5] and is less likely to watch TV. In fact, according to a recent study by GfK, “Millennials are more likely than average viewers to say that live TV has become more of a special event for them (16%, index of 152).”[6] By understanding the attitudes, behaviors, and preferences of its different customer segments, NBC was able to cater to a variety of specific needs—maximizing viewership of its Olympic coverage.

Like NBC’s experience with the Olympics, targeted and innovative market research can benefit businesses in a variety of sectors. Cicero helps its clients better understand it’s current and target customers. We segment customers based on similar characteristics (e.g., attitudes, behaviors, needs, etc.) and craft personalized strategies to directly address the needs of each group. Segments may require unique marketing campaigns, product lines, or, as in the case of the Rio Olympics, distribution channels. The first step, however, is always the same: know your customers (in all their segments).


[1] The Nielsen Company. The Final Tally — 4.7 Billion Tunes in to Beijing 2008 – More than Two in Three People Worldwide. 5 Sept. 2008. <https://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/newswire/uploads/2008/09/press_release3.pdf>.

[2] “2012 Summer Olympics Wins Gold!” Nielsen Sports Insights (Oct. 2012): 1-3. The Nielsen Company. <https://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/sports/nielsen-sports-newsletter-october-2012.pdf>.

[3] Flint, Joe. “NBC’s Ratings for Rio Olympics Fall Behind London.” Wall Street Journal. News Corp., 14 Aug. 2016. <https://www.wsj.com/articles/nbcs-ratings-for-rio-olympics-fall-behind-london-1471185907>.

[4] Battaglio, Stephen. “NBC’s Olympic Ratings Drop While Online Viewership Surges: ‘There Is a Cultural Shift’” Los Angeles Times. 16 Aug. 2016. <https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-olympic-ratings-20160812-snap-story.html>.

[5] Fry, Richard. “Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers as America’s Largest Generation.” Pew Research Center. 25 Apr. 2016. <https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/25/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/>.

[6] GfK MRI. 57% of TV Viewers Report Regular Binge Viewing – Up 12% in Just 10 MonthsGfK. 19 July 2016. <https://www.gfk.com/en-us/insights/press-release/57-of-tv-viewers-report-regular-binge-viewing-up-12-in-just-10-months/>.

Dan Groberg


Daniel Groberg is an Associate with Cicero Group, and part of Cicero’s Social Impact Practice. He has led and contributed to projects across multiple industries, services, and sectors—in particular: technology, marketing, healthcare, nonprofit, and operations improvement. Prior to Cicero, Daniel served as controller for Premier Credit Consulting, a credit consulting and repair firm. In that capacity, Daniel led all company-wide financial strategies and initiatives. By streamlining collection, budget, and forecast processes, Daniel increased financial transparency and improved the rate of successful payment collection. Daniel graduated from Utah State University with a degree in accounting.