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NBCU Enlists Google, ComScore To Track Multiscreen Olympics Viewing

February 13, 2012

Google to Use a Meter Approach, ComScore Panel to Use Data from AT&T AdWorks

By Todd Spangler -- Multichannel News, 2/13/2012

NBCUniversal, looking to produce two "proofs of concept" for single-source measurement of cross-platform media usage, has engaged Google and comScore to conduct panel-based research for its 2012 London Olympic Games coverage.

The programmer will work with Google and comScore on a series of projects measuring single-source consumption of video content on TV, PCs, smartphones and tablets.

It's the third Olympics that NBCU is using to try to crack the code on measuring multiplatform usage. "This is like Halley's Comet," NBCU president of research Alan Wurtzel said. "It only comes around every two years."

But this time, the cross-platform measurement panels will be much bigger than they were for Beijing in 2008 and Vancouver in 2010. For those games, NBCU used devices from San Mateo, Calif.-headquartered IMMI with 40 and 60 consumers respectively -- an "almost boutique attempt" at multiplatform measurement, Wurtzel said. IMMI's technology has since been acquired by Arbitron.

London Olympics logoLondon Olympics logoFor the London games, Google will assemble an opt-in panel of approximately 3,000 consumers, using a meter-based approach to track usage on different platforms. The Internet giant will emply proprietary algorithms developed specifically for NBCU.

ComScore, for its part, will base its Olympic-viewing analysis on a 750-consumer panel culled from the approximately 10,000 members in the TV, online and mobile panel developed with AT&T AdWorks. The comScore project will compile data from U-verse TV set-top boxes, electronic meters and panelist self-reports.

NBCU has not announced how much coverage from the 2012 Summer Olympics it plans to present on TV, online and mobile, but "it's going to be the most it's ever been," Wurtzel said. For the 2010 Vancouver games, the programmer served up some 835 hours across multiple platforms.

Wurtzel calls the research project the "Olympics Billion Dollar Lab," a reference to the $2.2 billion NBCU agreed to pay for U.S. broadcast rights for the 2010 and 2012 games. The company will pay $4.4 billion for the four biennial games from 2014 to 2020.

The point of the Olympics Billion Dollar Lab is twofold: to measure media consumption of the Olympics itself in reports for programming executives and advertisers, and more broadly to understand how people access content across TV, online, smartphones and tablets. With Google and comScore, NBCU will be able to analyze viewing according to demographic criteria.

"We want to understand not only the usage but also which measurement methods work better," Wurtzel said.

The Google and comScore research will not be "a ‘national' sample," he added. "The first thing we need to do is prove that we can do it."

The programmer approached Nielsen and others about cross-platform measurement for the Olympics, but "ultimately for a lot of reasons we went with Google and comScore," Wurtzel said.

NBCU hopes to be up and running with Google and comScore by late spring, in order to establish a baseline before the London Olympics, which run July 27 to Aug. 12, 2012.

"This event spans 17 days -- nothing else is like that," Wurtzel said. "It has a huge amount of cross-platform content. I feel that, going into London, with 40% of phones video-friendly, we're going to see video usage on phones like never before."

NBCU plans to announce other research partnerships for the Olympics in the coming weeks. In addition, Wurtzel said, he will present more details of the multiplatform research initiative at the Advertising Research Foundation's RE:think 2012 conference, March 25-28 in New York.

After the Summer Games are over, NBCU, Google, and comScore intend to share both the results of consumer media consumption of Olympics video as well as the broader conclusions about the various approaches to cross-platform measurement, according to the companies.

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