NBC and cable partner stumble in the bid for Olympic gold

THE OLYMPIC flame is being extinguished too soon for NBC, the US television network, and its cable TV partner Cablevision Systems. They are facing losses estimated at more than dollars 100m ( pounds 53m) on their Barcelona coverage after their pay-per- view package attracted far fewer viewers than projected.

NBC, a subsidiary of General Electric, paid dollars 401m for the exclusive rights to broadcast the games in the US. In addition to selling advertising on its regular network, it entered a joint venture with Cablevision to boost revenue through a 'TripleCast', offering viewers three channels of continuous Olympic action.

The company had hoped that 2-3 million subscribers would pay dollars 125 each for the two-week package, but this proved wildly optimistic. Cable industry estimates point to a figure closer to 250,000, leaving Cablevision and NBC each nursing losses of around dollars 50m. NBC has not disclosed the financial details of the venture.

The TripleCast has tried to make up lost ground by reducing weekday coverage from a day rate of dollars 29.95 to dollars 19.95. As the final weekend approached, NBC was hoping for a last- minute rush for a package costing dollars 29.95 for both days. Television viewers have been bombarded with advertisements about the new low price and exhorted to pay up and 'see what you've been missing'. But most viewers have been content to keep on missing it.

Part of the problem is the time difference. With Spain six hours ahead of the eastern time zone, many sports fans have either been asleep or at work during the TripleCast live coverage between 5am and 5pm. This has been replayed from 5pm to 5am, but most people have preferred to tune in for free to the regular NBC network programmes running each weekday from 7am to 10am and 7.30pm to 2am.

These programmes have drawn larger-than-expected audiences - well above the minimum levels NBC guaranteed advertisers. At the Seoul Olympics in 1988, soft viewing figures forced NBC to give away millions of dollars in free advertisements to make up the shortfall on its guaranteed viewing levels.

Analysts point out that since NBC is using the audiences to promote its autumn programme schedule, it also stands to benefit indirectly from the high audience figures, although it pre- sold all the advertising at prices one Wall Street analyst describes as 'a steal'.

As for the TripleCast itself, coverage on its Red, White and Blue channels has been well received by viewers and TV critics.

The relatively raw footage, with events followed at length uninterrupted by advertisements, is in sharp contrast to the highly packaged network shows with their constant plugs for sponsors, pop music promotions and syrupy features on athletes and their families.

Since most sports fans have not been persuaded to pay up, however, the scheme has been something of a setback for pay- per-view sports coverage, which until now has concentrated on big boxing fights. But some analysts believe pay-per-view will be back for the Atlanta Games in 1996.

'It has helped the spread of pay-per-view technology,' said Joe Rutledge, a spokesman for NBC. 'This is a ground-breaking venture and it was certainly ahead of its time in many respects, but I think it will help propel more such offerings in the future.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Junior Research Analyst - Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £25K: SThree: SThree Group has been well estab...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform