The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro marked a watershed moment for the media and entertainment industry.

Over 100 million viewers streamed 3.5 billion minutes of NBC’s Rio coverage on web, mobile, and other connected devices. By all objective measures, NBC delivered the largest digital event in history. From NBC’s support of TV Everywhere and connected TVs to dynamic ad insertion on live events that crossed millions of users, NBC’s robust technology delivered the content that viewers craved, when and how they wanted it, without getting in the way.

Media companies once controlled how, when, and where audiences consumed their content. Remember “Must See TV”? Now, consumers expect content to be anywhere and whenever they are. And of course, this applies to publishing, newspapers, and radio, too. Why wade through the static of FM stations when you can easily dial up iHeartRadio or Pandora?

But as the NBC Olympics example shows, media brands that evolve to meet these challenges reap great rewards: more consumers, younger demographics, and more ways to earn advertising and subscriber revenue. While not everyone has a tentpole event like the Olympics, all must satisfy customers through a personalized and continuous customer experience. The only way to guarantee viewers an amazing experience like the Rio Olympics is to do as NBC did — build a digital marketing foundation that is powerful, unified, and flexible.

Content Rules
As NBC’s success shows, the media and entertainment industry is at an inflection point. While over 500 million people watched the 2016 Olympics on live TV, digital-only fans grew by a whopping 29 percent from the 2012 London games to a total of 100 million unique viewers. Based on these trends, media companies that delay or deprioritize a unified digital foundation will have an existential crisis on their hands.

Today, most media companies have implemented digital technology. For instance, you won’t find many brands that aren’t acquiring audiences or delivering content across mobile or supporting an OTT service. But because media and entertainment moved to digital so quickly, it now faces new challenges. Those technologies born out of former needs and urgency are simply not optimally integrated. In fact, only one in four media executives in a recent Econsultancy survey was confident that they have the technology to capitalize on digital opportunities.

This lack of integration introduces complexity, delays production, and makes security and scalability more challenging. It also means that customer experiences can be jagged, which can prove fatal to incumbents who are now competing with nimble startups without the technical or organizational debt to tame.

“For us, the experience on digital should be broadcast quality,” says Eric Black, chief technology officer of NBC Sports Group Digital. “No matter what platform viewers are on, we’re trying to drive growth in engagement. Part of engagement is the content itself, and part is the technology never getting in the way of the content. It needs to be about the game or event, not the technology.”
 

“Part of viewer engagement is the content itself and part is the technology never getting in the way of the content. It needs to be about the game, not the technology.”

Eric Black
CTO, NBC Sports