FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
TRANSCRIPT – NBC OLYMPICS CONFERENCE CALL WITH MARK LAZARUS AND ALAN WURTZEL
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
2 p.m. ET
Greg Hughes: Thank you and thanks everybody for joining us.
It’s about 5 after 11:00 p.m. Sochi time here, but we’ve been changing ourselves onto this clock for the last several days here. We’re joined today by Mark Lazarus, the Chairman of the NBC Sports Group and Alan Wurtzel, the President of Research and Media Development for NBC Universal.
We’ll take your calls in the order that they came in. We’re not going to get to everybody today but if you want to follow up, contact the NBC Sports Group Press Department and we will also have a transcript available of this call afterward.
So let me go ahead and turn things over right away to Mark Lazarus for opening remarks.
Mark Lazarus: Thanks Greg and thanks everyone for joining us.
We’ve got quite a few headlines so far so I’m going to go through them and look forward to answering any questions you have. You know, our strategy of providing more mostly live coverage across all of our platforms has once again proven to be very appealing to the American audience. Viewers want event programming. There’s no bigger event in the world than every two years, the Olympics.
Our multi-platform presentation style has clearly resonated with them. The Sochi Games are the first Winter Games that has every competition streamed live. London was a tipping point for viewers and they’ve been adjusting to this new style and the way we’ve decided to present the Olympics. And it looks like this change has benefited pretty much everyone — the viewers, markets and all of our distribution partners as well as our own platforms.
Alan Wurtzel will address the specifics in a minute but let me go through a few things in some broader strokes.
On NBC, our primetime (which is only part of the story, but is clearly an obsession that many people have) in terms of comparisons, has once again brought in families and viewers in huge numbers exceeding our expectations, especially when you consider the 9 to 12 hour time difference to the states.
Sitting here four years later after what was essentially a domestic but really a North America Olympics from Vancouver, we’re within shouting distance and really in a dead heat from an audience perspective. It’s very gratifying for our entire team that has worked very hard to present these games.
We’re ahead of the Torino pace from eight years ago, which was the last European-based Winter Games. And importantly, the gap between the average primetime rating in general and the Olympic primetime rating is widening, further showing the power of the Olympics back home in America.
Again, primetime is only part of our story — our weekend, daytime and late night numbers have had an extraordinary success at this point. More than 50 million viewers watched the afternoon coverage this past Sunday on NBC and late night has shattered records that were set 26 years ago in Calgary, the more than 8 million viewers on Sunday night.
NBCSN has also broken records both Saturday and Sunday and we continue to outpace what we did in London. We’ve put a strategy together of putting live figure skating there as well as many other live events, twelve hours of live content each day, that’s really paying off for us. The early weekday numbers have exceeded all of our numbers in London as well. So viewers are finding it and continue to come to NBCSN, which is continually becoming indispensable to the viewing audience. These Olympics further solidify that point, as we promised.
We’ve done a lot of learning. We learned a lot in London where we aired certain events live that had previously been saved for primetime. We’ve applied that learning here. We’ll learn from these Olympics and we’ll continue to apply it to Rio and beyond as well.
Our digital offerings have been a major hit. People have adjusted their habits. They know when they need to authenticate. They’re now accustomed to the ecosystem surrounding Olympic consumption.
As you know, it took some adjustment when we first did this in London. We also had some early issues with streams in London. That’s not the case here in Sochi. All of our metrics are up versus Vancouver, certainly, and most are up versus London this early in the games.
Our non-Olympic numbers have done well also, especially the Premier League in the last few days. Both NBC and NBCSN have spiked and have a great halo effect that we hope will continue once the Olympics conclude.
We’re launching NASCAR AMERICA on February 24, a daily NASCAR studio show. You’ve likely seen promos for this, and we look forward to getting that show going coming out of the Olympics. We also have the last few months of the Premier League ahead of us, the NHL’s final weeks and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both huge events for us and the big broad appeal that we think Olympic audiences will continue to find.
I want to touch briefly on some early issues we’ve had since I know some of them are top-of-mind for you. One — our Bob Costas’ eye problems — has been very unfortunate for him and for us and for viewers. The doctors here in Russia have worked hard to clear it up but it’s a slow process. He’s very frustrated – more frustrated than any of us. But he did a great job in the early days of planning here and we’re thankful to have NBC News here to assist us by loaning us Matt Lauer, who pinch-hit for Bob last night and will again tonight. We’re taking it day by day and we’re hopeful that Bob will be back in the chair soon.
And finally, with respect to the opening ceremony and the content of President Bach’s speech, he repeated his message several times in different ways throughout that speech. We edited for time and time only. His message was that of tolerance, anti-discrimination inclusion and we fully support for the IOC’s reviews on these issues.
We’ve had private conversations with them since then on this topic and those conversations, no matter how you try to ask us, will remain private. We had to fit into the window so we edited small portions to get to that point. But President Bach’s message of tolerance and inclusion was loud and clear and we support this, as I said.
Now let me turn it over to Alan so – for some more specifics and some interesting data. Alan?
Alan Wurtzel: Hey thanks Mark and hi everybody.
You know, as Mark just said, the headline of these Olympics is the success of our cross platform strategy where we put our content across all of our platforms. And most importantly, that the audience has responded.
I mean, we love television but the future is not just about television. It’s about television complemented with all of the other platforms that we have. And when I say the audience responded, you know, how do we know that? Well for the past seven years, we produced something we call the TAMI, the total audience measurement index, and that reflects how people consume our content across the major platforms of TV, PC Internet, mobile and Tablets and VOD.
So through Monday, February 10, the Sochi games have generated 160 million consumer media exposures. That’s 11% more than Vancouver on all of these platforms.
Another way to see how consumers are responding to our multi-platform offering is to look at the digital behavior. And again, remember, this is only based on the first few days of the games. We had nearly 30 million visitors to the 3 major digital platforms and those were the web site, NBCOlympics.com, our Live Extra app and the Highlights and Result app. That’s a 54% growth over Vancouver when we go apples to apples, similar days.
Viral clips are once again a major part of the digital experience. We had 2.5 million streams for Olga Graf, the somewhat unfortunate Russian skater’s wardrobe mishap. We had 1.5 million for the Indian luger who climbed back on his sled and 1.2 million for the ever-popular Russian Police Choir rendition of “Get Lucky.”
Now as Mark said, we’re streamlining everything and yesterday when Shaun White competed in the Men’s Halfpipe, during the day live, nearly 600,000 viewers watched — the second biggest live Olympic streaming event after the women’s soccer final in London.
Finally, we know that a majority of our viewers are watching TV and some other device simultaneously. So we developed an app that helps them do that. The traffic to the Primetime Companion, which syncs up the Highlights and Results app to the Primetime Show nearly doubled versus comparable days in London. In other words, we understand that audiences are consuming our content in lots of new ways and we’re developing digital apps to foster that behavior.
There’s a lot more simultaneous viewing information that we have and if you’re interested, be glad to give it to you. I’ll even show you slides.
Then there’s social media. It’s very early but what’s interesting is that 86% of Twitter users who saw any TV-related Tweet the last few days saw at least 1 about the Olympics. That’s about 17 million users. Now this is a brand-new metric. It hasn’t been around very long so I don’t have any comparison data but I think you’ll agree, those are really impressive numbers.
We also found that for the first few days of the games, among half of the total viewers who read or posted about the Olympics, 81% said, “I have been posting on social media more than usual due to the Olympics.”
Now Mark said the consumer’s responding to how we’re presenting content by changing and adopting new media behaviors and that’s very, very true. Let me give you some examples.
Those of you who have heard my Olympics reports before may remember what I called my skip-the-laundry index. These were folks who admitted to skipping doing their laundry and other chores because they were so engrossed in watching the games. Well it was 46% who said that in London. Here we are two years later and that number decreased to only 10% because half the respondents — that’s 51% — said, “Now that the Olympics are available to me on so many different devices, I no longer have to change my routine to watch.” And not surprisingly, it’s 2/3 of a younger audience that said that and, no surprise, since younger viewers are even more wedded to the various devices.
So thanks, Olympics, for giving us a cleaner, fresher America.
Another important research project we’re conducting is cross platform study where we’re following about 300 panelists to see how each respondent is consuming the Olympics on TV, PC, mobile and now, importantly, the tablet. Again, only a few days into the games but we’re seeing some very interesting findings of the merge.
First, among the people who watch the first three days, about 2/3 use TV and at least one other device to follow the games. So in that group, 49% — about half — use TV and 1 other device. More than 1/3 use TV and 3 other devices and about 15% use 4 platforms — TV, PC, mobile and tablet. And again, we’re very early on in the game
The smart phone is clearly the device that people use most often to follow the Olympics. Seven out of ten panelists said that. About 60% said they’re using tablets and 40% are using a PC/laptop, which kind of confirms the fact that the use of PCs and laptops are beginning to decline in favor of tablets.
When it comes to accelerating media behavior, the Olympics has had a huge impact. So far, about 1/4 of Olympic consumers report that they’re following games on devices they never used during previous games. Twenty-two percent say they’re using more devices than before and again, it skews young with 31% of the 18 – 34 age group saying that. Again, about one out of five said they tried new ways to consume the Olympics during Sochi.
The Olympics have always been an amazing cultural phenomenon and these games are no exception. In a very, very fractionalized world, it is rare that viewers can share the same content together but this has always been a hallmark of the Olympics. During the Opening Ceremonies, we found more co-viewing of adults with kids and teens than either Opening Ceremony in Vancouver or Torino. So tell me another major or TV event that gets your teenagers to watch with you.
Let me take a minute just to address a couple of prevailing urban myths. The first was that viewers will be turned off by the political events in Russia and stories about unfinished infrastructure. Well, it turns out that our viewers were totally aware of all that but a commanding 87% said it didn’t matter to them and it didn’t affect their interest or their viewing of the games.
Second issue — or I should say urban myth — is the nine-hour delay in spoilers. Look, you cannot go nine hours and not hear about results but apparently, for most viewers, it just doesn’t matter. Forty-four percent said they heard results on Saturday prior to Sunday but it had no impact. In fact, over 1/3 said it made them more interested in the games and only 15% said knowing them — the results — made them less interested.
Finally, the power of the Olympics as the most powerful marketing platform on this planet — I’ll give you one example. We took 28 ads that were the exact same creative. They appeared inside the Olympics and they appeared outside the Olympics in conventional television. Using IHG, which is an industry standard of measure, we found that those ads that ran inside of the Olympics had 57% greater grand recall, 82% higher message recall and 96% greater ad likeability. And again, these are standard industry metrics, compared to the very same ad that ran outside of the Olympics.
One of the really interesting things comes from a company called NRG — these guys are the Hollywood research currency. They did a study between February 5 and 9 and they showed that the average top box interest in the 6 upcoming releases that advertise in our Sochi game coverage jumped 17% among all Olympic viewers and jumped 68% among heavy Olympic viewers over the first 3 games. Conversely, interest in those titles among those people who didn’t watch the Olympics actually dropped by 14%.
I couldn’t end a research report without mentioning the ever-popular curling. We began coverage on Monday and on that day, 5 telecasts of curling delivered over 5 million viewers. It was the top-rated sport of the day on NBCSN, which, by the way, was the number one cable network. I don’t mean the number one sports network. I mean the number one cable network from noon until 7:00 p.m.
On CNBC. curling delivered 1.2 million viewers, its highest viewer delivery ever for that Monday time period. And look, maybe a part of it can be attributed to the very fashionable Norwegian pants. You guys be the judge of that.
So that’s my report. I know a lot of information but it’s only the beginning of the games. We hope to have a lot more insight to share as the games progress so stay tuned.
And now I’ll turn it back to Greg and Mark.
Greg Hughes: Okay, thanks Alan. Operator, we can now take the questions from the media.
Mark, Alan, has there been any effect from some of the athletes who have not medaled or who have not done as well as possibly Shaun White and people like that? Or is it people are geared to watch them, and if they don’t win, well that’s that and there’s no effect going forward? How does that work with you guys?
Mark Lazarus: Well I think it’s almost impossible to say for sure, but we certainly like when the stars win medals and it’s attractive to the viewers.
I think of last night, for instance, Shaun White in the half pipe, the ratings were tremendous. And even though most people knew he hadn’t won, people want to see how it happened. It was a changing of the guard in a way, and this guy, the I-Pod, is a lightning rod figure that people wanted to see as well.
So I think certainly people want to see Americans win medals back home, but they also want to see sometimes how stars don’t quite live up to their own expectations.
It’s impossible to measure, but the bottom line is people are interested in the Olympics and the halo and the nationalism and the cheering and the sportsmanship like we saw yesterday in the cross-country skiing where a Canadian coach came out and put a new ski on a Russian cross-country skier whose ski had broke. I mean it’s those stories that people really line up for and it’s different than what we see every day in the stick-and-ball sports.
Yes Mark, no pun intended here, but the Bob Costas story has truly been sort of a viral sensation, you know, with the pictures and things like that. Does it surprise you sort of how much traction it’s had? And also you said, you know, he’s working with the doctors. Can you describe what they’re able to do for him and is it getting better?
Mark Lazarus: Well I can say this. I’m not surprised it’s attracted this much attention. Bob is America’s Olympic host and people have been watching Bob do this and do it extraordinarily well for several decades. So in a way, they’ve come to expect him being here and when he’s not it’s a story.
So, it’s unfortunate, and as I said earlier, no one is more frustrated or bothered by it than him. Not just the physical, but the fact that he’s not part of something he loves so much and that he does so well.
As far as the doctors, that’s really between him and his doctors. What we know is he’s staying in the hotel in a dark room and trying to get better. But I can’t comment on what they’re actually doing for him.
From the statistics that you were giving earlier, which are very impressive, is it looking like there really isn’t any real primetime that the audience is actually dictating what they want to watch, when they want to watch it? Would that be a fair estimate of what’s going on in these Olympics?
Alan Wurtzel: The good news is that it’s kind of a win-win. I mean primetime does extraordinarily well, but so do the other platforms.
I think it’s fair to say the simultaneous viewing information will be so important. I think what you’re seeing are people who are watching it on digital and consuming it there, but they are circling back to television and TV leads us back to digital, and it’s a virtual circle.
I think that that’s a model for the way these businesses are going to be, you know, looking going forward. The Olympics has always been for us, kind of a glimpse into the future. While we’re seeing it now with the Olympics I think it’s fair to say that going forward we shouldn’t be surprised that this kind of behavior and the way in which media companies put their content out, I think a terrific model.
Mark Lazarus: Let me just add to that. I think besides the digital and television virtual circle there, what we’re doing with NBCSN, and specifically with the figure skating where we’re running it in a very straightforward matter with commentary, top feel top to bottom, there’s a huge percentage of people – and it’s early – it’s a huge percentage that are watching again in primetime to see the packaged curated beautiful stories that Jim Bell and his incredibly talented team put together each night.
So we see that part of the circle being enhanced as well. And again, we learn from that. It’s not unlike what we do with other sports we cover as well in trying to mirror what the Olympics provides in this.
The 54% growth in digital from Vancouver, what exactly is that measuring? The number of people who are using these digital platforms, the number of individual experiences they’re having? Has this exceeded your expectations and what are some of the things in digital offerings that have proven the most popular?
Alan Wurtzel: Well I can talk to the statistics, yes. It’s the amount of traffic that was on the site. And you know, I’ll ask Mark to go into some of the more popular parts of the site.
Mark Lazarus: Well yes, that’s unique visitors, so for a very specific measure.
The Gold Zone has been very popular. Some of the clips, as Alan said, the speed skater, the Shaun White run, this morning which isn’t these numbers is a hockey game, the Women’s U.S. versus Canada hockey game. But live event streaming has done very well. And in terms of clips, some of those viral clips have done very well. The Gold Zone and Olympic Ice are original content that’s made just for the web has proved to be very popular early on.
You talked earlier about sort of how NBC has changed, or how the viewers have changed sort of philosophically over the years to the point where streaming everything live, in addition to the TV broadcast, whether they’re live or taped late, was a direction worth pursuing. Can you talk about how and maybe what some benchmark moments wer,e and the ways in which that philosophy changed for NBC over time? And what changes maybe you see coming in the future including possibly the Opening Ceremony and how you guys treat that?
Mark Lazarus: Well I mean I think first, the pivotal moment of change was really the London Games. And that’s when we decided to stream every event live, and that was the first time that that had been done. Additionally, I think as we continue to experiment with putting things on live during the day in London, like with some of the trials and heats we did with swimming and with track and field…we experienced even though it was on tape-delay, our primetime ratings continued to go up.
And I think that realization and experimentation has led us to the point where we were confident and comfortable that we could implement this strategy that we have for Sochi, which is 12 hours live a day on NBC Sports Network, and live streaming every single event, not just with some sports network, that it will continue to benefit our primetime…and we’re gratified that it is doing just that.
As for the Opening Ceremony, let’s talk four years from now because in Rio, it’s going to be live. The time zone will work just fine for it to be live in the United States, and we’ll make that decision down the line.
But I continue to believe, having now been in the stadium to watch Opening Ceremonies and watching it on television, that historical, cultural context and relevance make it a more enjoyable and informative experience. But we won’t have to wrestle with that one for a few years.
You said that London 2012 was sort of a key moment in your thought process in terms of how it came together. Was it a matter of the technology being ready at that point or was there also some sort of philosophical decision…I would imagine that it might have been at least a little bit of a jump, even if it was a comfortable jump, in terms of making that decision.
Mark Lazarus: The answer is very simple for me. It’s the first Olympics I was part of, so it was one that many people on the Olympic team had talked about. They had done some streaming in Vancouver and had found success with that, and also found ratings success in Vancouver. So that was a natural evolution. To your point, as the technology evolved and the user experience got better, we grew comfortable that we could deliver on the expectation of streaming everything live.
Obviously you guys held back inventory for (ADUs), and now it’s pretty clear you’re going to meet your rating guarantees and topping them. Are you now selling off the inventory, and can you kind of characterize what kind of premiums you’re getting on that?
Mark Lazarus: Well we are – there has been some inventory freed up to be available in the market, and Seth Winter is out in the market working on it. If advertisers are interested in it, it’s a premium rate card – that’s a luxury we have today. And also a promise we have made to the advertisers who supported us to get here. We’re not going to backtrack and do something that would make them uncomfortable. The other part is that it frees up two things; one, that it gives us some additional promotional inventory for some of the important company initiatives we have, specifically our late night line up with Fallon next week and Seth Meyers coming behind that, as well as sitcoms that we’ll watch towards the end of the Olympics and continue to support The Today Show who’s been so supportive of us as we continue to grow.
I’ve been online too and it’s been very easy to work. Any sense you can give us in terms of folks that have signed up and how many devices are in play at this juncture versus what might have been in London?
Mark Lazarus: Well I don’t have a number of devices, but what we are seeing right now is over a 50% success rate as people authenticate, which is up from about a third success rate in London. So I think a combination of people becoming more use to authenticating, people trying hard to make sure they know how to…and I think our messaging before the Games. Again, sort of our laying out and people understanding what they had to do in order to become an authenticated customer has led to that success rate. That’s an industry initiative. And while it’s good for us here, it’s good for the rest of our business too as we move towards authenticating all of our sports products and as the industry moves towards authenticating more and more of its television product.
As it regards the mobile and the digital, do you have any estimate on how – like your ad poll on that or your ad load? Has it increased your ad revenue percentage? And do you have an estimate on the total revenue of these games now? And one last question was I did see there were ads for like Universal Theme Parks which I think was the first time I’ve ever seen a national ad for that on TV. I was just wondering whether you are increasing the number of sort of like in-house ads to promote internal businesses with this Olympics.
Mark Lazarus: First let me start with that one. Yes, when we have the success we are having in reaching the audiences and being true and loyal and paying off our word to our current customers, we are again selling in the marketplace at premium pricing, but we are also utilizing some of that inventory for promotions around our company.
One of the hallmarks of this company is that we work together – we promote each other and we all grow in the same direction. What Steve Burke pointed at, symphony for our company and the rest of the company, which got all of these people to us to watch the Olympics, and the Olympics is one of the ways we are able to reciprocate by promoting them.
As it relates to the mobile stuff – I don’t have the specific number, but I know we are more than two times where we are on the mobile digital in terms of where we were in Vancouver, and we have said before that our digital advertising and our digital revenues are in the $25 to $50 million range. We have now more capacity, and I think when you see us going towards Rio and beyond, that we will be able to accommodate much more than that.
The total – have you received the total revenue for these Olympics – total ad revenue – a range or?
Mark Lazarus: We have put out a public number – we are north of $800 million, and until we are done, that is the number we are going with.
I am looking at the plethora of coverage on four or five cable networks, the flagship network and on line and the two apps or three apps. It is great for viewers that you have all of this. Is it getting to the point where it is overwhelming for – in your view for some casual viewers who are not particularly interested in a sport – you can go online to skating and find out what the schedule is for skating. I wonder whether you have thought about the fact that you are giving so much that it becomes overwhelming and whether there is a way on one Website to say, ‘Here is what is happening today and here is where on the Universe of NBC Universal you can find it.’
Mark Lazarus: Well, I think we have that in various forms, and we try to make it easy for people to find the content, and we will continue to evolve and try to make it easier…but I think we do a pretty good job of doing that. It is a lot of content. It is well over 1,500 hours between TV and digital, so it is a lot of content.
When you look at it – it is several months worth of programming in two weeks, and we also make editorial decisions on the fly, so to make hard and fast commitments is difficult, especially during the daytime when it is live…so we want to give people of sense for where it is, and hopefully they will be able to find what they are looking for.
I think it is really unique when you have things like the biathlon and the skiathlon, and the biathlon and the ski jumping, and things that most Americans don’t experience…when they can get it on television and/or online we are seeing that things you talked to like curling is almost unstoppable.
Right – just a really quick follow-up – are you seeing any problems that result from the infrastructure issues that were related to the venues?
Mark Lazarus: No, we have had a very seamless experience with everything here on the ground – the transportation – the venues are brand new and first class so no we are not seeing any problems as it relates to transmitting the games back home.
Mark I noticed in your early remarks – I don’t know whether it is a little fatigued or a little ticked off at the notion that people seem to be focusing maybe too much on primetime ratings and maybe not enough on the digital stuff. What is your exact feeling there, and is the media behind the curve in your view of how to measure Olympic success?
Mark Lazarus: Well – it is not fatigue, sleeping like a baby Richard, and it is not ticked off – I just find it interesting that in today’s world where…I mean if you listen to this call, half of the questions and discussion has been around our digital platforms. But the constant measuring point is simply what is going on in primetime.
I just think there is a bigger story here for our company and the industry around an event like this about something that is multi-platform and that is consuming people’s minds at home and their viewing habits are changing so I just find it interesting. I hope we can continue and we will continue to tell the story of all of the day parts and the way they are working together so well to build a primetime audience, and frankly I think that is a big part of the story, that the success of primetime hinges on the ability for us to grow those other day parts and audiences. What we are really able to bring to bear are all of these wonderful cable assets. Not only NBCSN, but our sister networks at MSNBC, CNBC, and USA who continue to serve Olympic programming with great success and push people to the sports network and the primetime.
Alan Wurtzel: I know why we all focus on primetime, but to some extent that is a little bit of a legacy, because it doesn’t reflect the fact that it is not just primetime that is driving this Olympics being the most viewed Winter Olympics ever.
It really is fringe day parts like daytime and late night. It is, as Mark said, the cable entities and it is digital and I want to make one point. What we learned in London was that the more devices people use to consume the Olympics, the more time they spent watching the Olympics – but the great thing was that primetime never diminished. In fact it, actually grew as well.
So this is one of those instances where – what is the metaphor, you know, “a rising tide lifts all boats” – I mean that is what is going on, and I really believe as a researcher that this cross-platform view of the way in which people are consuming our content, not just the Olympics but, once the Olympics are over conventional programming, is really what the future is going to be. So I would argue that I just think it is important that when we look at these things we are not myopic – we have to be broader than that.
Alan you just mentioned what I was going to ask in terms of most watched. Where do you see this heading – I mean it is the most viewed Olympics – Winter Olympics to date, and do you think it will – I don’t think we are going to have Nancy and Tonya – how do you think it will map out as we get toward the end game in terms of overall watching?
Mark Lazarus: As a matter of fact though, we will in some ways because we have made a documentary about that Mary Carillo put together about the Nancy and Tonya episode, with Nancy speaking out on it for the first time so in an interesting way we will have them. Alan go ahead.
Alan Wurtzel: No, I think we are doing great. In all of the conventional metrics we are outpacing Vancouver, and as Mark said, the fact that Vancouver was a domestic Olympics essentially that was predominantly live, and the idea that in this world we are pretty much neck and neck with those guys is extraordinary.
The fact that we are so far ahead of Torino, an Olympics that was eight years ago when the world was still so different and fracturalization wasn’t around is extraordinary. I am looking at some of the conventional metrics and saying, WWe are doing great,” and then I am looking at the new metrics of digital and say, “We are doing even better,” so I am very optimistic that these will be terrific games from a performance standpoint.
About the marketing power of the Olympics you mentioned the power to draw teens for instance to watch. Can you talk a little bit about demographics and minority audiences. I am noticing how amazingly white the faces are on screen and I wonder what – how is that reflected in the audience?
Alan Wurtzel: I don’t have data with respect to various groups at this point. I can tell you a little bit about younger and older. It is a little early for Nielsen to get us that data so I think we have to wait a bit.
What we are finding again is that the Olympics is doing fine across all groups. It is doing relatively actually slightly better among younger viewers than previous Olympics, and again we find that even in the Summer Olympics, that it is the digital component that helps drive younger viewers.
The thing you have to remember is that for people who are over 50, the Olympics is a given. For younger audiences, you have to rekindle their interest in the Olympics every time it comes around, and we have been fortunate in our ability to do this, not just with the way in which we present it, but with the fact that we are employing all of these various digital platforms that are native to this group.
Mark Lazarus: Send our appreciation to your readers as Denver is one of the top – actually the third highest rated market for these first few days of the Games, so we appreciate the support.
One of the things that had helped make the growth possible is this cable authentication that you guys have talked about, and I know it takes some amount of deal making to get that done with the various pay TV providers but you have a fairly wide range for this.
If my memory is right you have a different range for the Premier League…can you talk about the importance of the cable authentication in distributing the online stuff as a compliment so the people aren’t cutting the cord, and then also can you maybe shed a little insight on what it takes to get some of those deals because – and I know it hasn’t come up with the Olympics per se – it has only a little bit, but certainly with some of these other properties when people say, “Hey, there is lots of providers in here but not mine,”
Mark Lazarus: Yes, well I think first of all, the cable operators and all of the MVPDs are our business partners, and we are in business with them in many ways. One of them is that they pay us for our services and our programming, and we believe that one of those ways they help distribute our programming is by authenticating their customers online.
I think it is in our industry’s best interest to have this pay television eco-system preserved for all of us and for our shareholders, so we believe in that and again, we are in business with them – they are our partners in distributing our product.
All the deals are different. We have an entire team of people who work every day with the cable operators and MVPDs and those deals get negotiated as part of – typically as part of broader deals that we are doing between our programming services and for them.
You know, one of the things as it relates to the Olympics that we did was we came to an agreement with them that we would have a temporary pass – a 30-minute temporary pass for your first visit, and a five minute temporary pass on subsequent visits and that gave people sort of a clock to know I can get in here and watch a little bit, but I have got to authenticate, and we have given them a little time to do so. I think that that has helped up the authentication rate.
We have also been working with several of the operators – Comcast and Cablevision have in-home auto authentication – that has been very successful and we have great marketing support and provide the marketing support, and we have a great tutorial on our website hosted by Ryan Seacrest. The MVPDs have done a lot, and they have done a lot on their own just for their own services I am sure, depending on, you know, who your provider is and hopefully it is Comcast there in Philadelphia.
They do a great job of explaining how to go about TV Everywhere and authenticating so that you can receive this content on multiple devices, but each deal is somewhat unique, and they are usually done as part of broader discussions.
Are those discussions coming pretty easy at this point, because I know at the Premier League it wasn’t necessarily.
Mark Lazarus: No, and frankly that is because that one was done outside of that normal course of big programming deals. That was done because it was a property we are able to acquire and we were doing something that hadn’t been done before, either on our side or on their’s, so it wasn’t that it wasn’t easy to do, it just took some thinking and really on the part of the cable operators, it took some technology expertise to be able to handle all that from a digital point of view. On the live linear way we showed our Extra Time package, it was just a lot to get together from a technology point of view, but I think the partnership between us and the cable operators or the MVPDs is a strong one. I think they understand that we believe that we are in business with them, not against them.