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NBCU Olympics: Digital Is The Future, But TV Is Still King

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It’s half-way through the Vancouver Olympics and NBC (NYSE: GE) Universal’s research head Alan Wurtzel already has some findings to share about the viewing results so far. Anticipating the ire of bloggers who have complained that NBCU has been holding back too much live coverage of the games from online, Wurtzel made it clear that the network considers online viewing something for tomorrow, but “TV is still king today.” Still, Wurtzel had a number of stats related to online that he wanted to trumpet, particularly if it suggested that multitudes are watching more digital than before, with a large extent seeing it as an addition to TV. For online, Wurtzel said, “Here’s the headline: about half of those using didn’t use it during the Summer Games in Beijing.”

The internet use, so far, has been more than double the entire 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. NBCU is also using a single source from Arbitron’s panel for both TV and internet viewing.

— 93 percent of those who watched Apolo Ohno’s silver speed skating event never saw it on TV.

— In the men’s short program, 56 percent of those who watched figure skater Johnny Weir watched it for the first time online, while 44 percent watched it on TV first and turned to online video to relive it. “We’ve always thought that internet video viewing is a solitary event, but the research showed us that two-thirds of the people we interviewed said they watched a web video of the Olympics at least once with somebody else, while 16 percent said they regularly watched with others.”

Mobile: Not only is the growth huge, but it’s mainstreaming. 11 million mobile visits in Vancouver versus 8 million in Beijing. Seven out of 10 who are using mobile now to watch the olympics didn’t use their phones to view the Beijing games. There have been 1.1 million mobile app users to date for the Olympics.

Simultaneous viewing: Over half have watched TV and used the internet site at the same time. The same percent for mobile.

Google’s help: Wurtzel touted the research the network is doing with Google? (NSDQ: GOOG) on search results tied to the Olympics broadcast. During the opening ceremonies, NBCU ran a video on TV featuring the song “We Are The World” to promote assistance to the Haitian earthquake victims. Google? searches for the keyword “Haiti” went up 500 percent and remained high subsequently.

Brand recall: Advertisers who bought Olympics spots both online and offline saw an average boost in brand recall from consumers of roughly 16 percent — versus just buying one or the other.