NBCUniversal lowering its TV ratings expectations for Winter Olympics

FILE PHOTO: The NBC and Comcast logo are displayed on top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, formerly known as the GE building, in midtown Manhattan in New York July 1, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - NBCUniversal is lowering its TV ratings expectations for the Beijing Winter Games by as much as half depending on the time of day and the platform, the company said on Tuesday, as it prepares to broadcast its second Olympic Games in a pandemic.

Comcast Corp-owned NBCU and other media companies are also wrestling with a ratings measurement system they say fails to capture consumers’ shift to streaming.

"If somebody said, are you reducing your estimates for digital consumption I’d say no; they will explode exponentially," said Mark Marshall, NBCUniversal’s president of advertising and client partnerships. “The issue we’re having right now as an industry is that changes in consumption are not being captured by measurement. Until we do, there’s going to be a leak in our ability to capture audiences.”

NBC’s broadcast of the Tokyo Games, which were delayed for a year because of the pandemic, drew the smallest audience for the Summer Games since NBC began broadcasting them in 1988.

Advertisers and media companies rely on Nielsen to provide the “common currency” for measuring TV ratings, the backbone of the industry's business model. Ratings enable advertisers to track viewers and help networks set the price for ad slots.

But Nielsen has been under fire in recent years from NBCU and its other TV industry clients, many of which say it has an outdated approach. Nielsen measures TV audiences through a sample set of panelists who use special devices in their homes.

This month NBCUniversal announced it was partnering with TV measurement firm iSpot.tv in a multi-year deal to measure its audience in new ways, including traditional linear, streaming and time-shifted viewing.

NBC will stream every Beijing event live on Peacock’s premium tier, in addition to airing coverage across the NBC broadcast network, USA Network and CNBC cable networks, NBCOlympics.com website and NBC Sports app.

NBCU guarantees a particular audience size to clients who spend upwards of $2 million to $4 million on Olympics advertisements, the company said Tuesday.

That detail, as well as the fact that NBCU is reducing its TV ratings expectations for the Olympics, was first reported by Insider.

(Reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by David Gregorio)

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