Peacock’s Paris Push: NBCUniversal Streaming Service Plans 2024 Olympics Focus

The relationship between Peacock and the Olympics goes back to the launch event for the NBCUniversal streaming service.

In January 2020, with the world mostly oblivious of what was coming just a few months later, NBC executives touted live streams from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a key selling point for Peacock’s launch.

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Of course, the 2020 Olympics would be pushed to 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but Peacock has carried on, adding more live streams and more live programming at every subsequent Olympics since. In that context, the 2024 Paris Olympics mark a critical juncture for Peacock, with more live streaming coverage (Peacock will have everything, with original streaming shows and simulcasts of the primetime shows), and a bet that the platform is ready, finally, for its Olympic moment at the same time that the games will host its first real post-pandemic showing.

“I think the main thing we learned is that getting the content is table stakes,” says John Jelley, senior VP, of product and user experience for Peacock & global streaming at NBCUniversal, adding that during the 2022 Beijing winter games, NBCU rolled out pages for sports so viewers could do deep dives. Now, the company is taking it a step further: “We’re trying to reach casual fans who just really want to have someone who’s guiding them, but then also make sure that we can go as deep as you like with the content.”

That will manifest itself in a few ways. For the first time, Peacock will have multi-view, allowing users to watch four different events at once, on whatever device they want. At least for the 2024 games, the multi-view experiences will be curated by the Olympics team, choosing the most interesting events happening at any given moment.

“There’s 40 events now happening live, there’s a lot of content, what am I going to watch?” Jelley says, speaking to reporters in a conference room at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters. “And so we want to give users ways to discover the things that are most interesting to them, and so being able to say ‘hey, this is a first time Olympian, or this is a medal event,’ you’ll be able to see that in one view of all the trending things, and we’re looking at the data and seeing this is what people are watching.”

Peacock will also be the streaming home of Gold Zone, a “whip-around” studio show that will take viewers from event to event to catch the most interesting moments. Scott Hanson (best known as the longtime host of NFL RedZone, who will make his Olympics debut), Andrew Siciliano, Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila will host the program.

That show will also serve as a springboard for another Peacock streaming innovation: “Live Actions,” which will let viewers of the show click to keep watching a live event, even if the show is about to move on to another one.

Jelley says it was inspired by some experiments they did with Bravo reality shows, letting users click to watch expanded conversations or other scenes, or keep watching the editor cut.

“The learning we took is if there’s a passionate fan, they actually do want to go deeper and have that option to explore and discover something else,” he says. “Being able to unlock that and have the presenters of that show help guide you to that, felt like almost like the best of both worlds.”

The Olympics will continue a critical year for Peacock, coming just a few months after it hosted an exclusive NFL wild card game, a game that generated record streaming viewership.

And as executives at the company will be quick to tell you, unlike many other big streamers, Peacock was ad-supported from the beginning.

“If you look past our history, and you go through everything, probably the greatest innovation that we’ve had as a company has been Peacock,” says Mark Marshall, NBCUniversal’s chairman of ad sales. “There’s a lot written currently about all of the other AVOD competitors that are out there. But there’s a couple of facts that probably don’t get enough attention. One is when we launched Peacock, we really were out on an island. Everyone was running for SVOD. We stood there and said we want to be about advertisers.

“We thought it was very important that our streaming products still had advertising at the core of what we were doing,” he added. “But it was nice, everyone went to SVOD and gave us about a four year head start in how we launched the product, how we thought about the product, how we build the product with advertisers and it’s actually been extremely successful. AVOD is not easy. It really cannot be your side hustle. We obsess about advertising and having advertising at the core of Peacock every single day.”

The Olympics, coming off of Peacock’s big NFL win, will test that approach even further.

“The Paris Olympics will mark another major milestone for Peacock’s leadership in live streaming with an unprecedented viewing experience that demonstrates our commitment to our customers, clients and partners,” said Kelly Campbell, President, Peacock and Direct-to-Consumer, NBCUniversal. “Following the Games, these new features will extend to other live events, joining the growing list of interactive elements and ad innovations that continue to set Peacock apart.”

And that will include some engagement with the real world. Among the sponsorship deals the company is looking at for this year’s games is partnering with a last mile delivery company, who could give Olympics viewers a chance to order snacks before the event begins.

“This is an opportunity to buy that last minute beverage, food, drink whatever it may be, before you sit down for the next two to three hours watching a soccer match,” says Josh Feldman, the global CMO for NBCU’s advertising and partnerships team.

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