The deal ESPN struck with NBC to show Olympic highlights online while directing viewers to NBC’s official streams only lasted two days, and the reason why is a conflict over advertising. As John Ourand reports at Sports Business Daily, the sides had different interpretations of what advertising “specifically tied” to highlights videos meant:
Sources on both sides say their deal broke down over advertising restrictions around the Olympic programming that ESPN saw as too onerous. As part of the deal, NBC told ESPN that it was not allowed to sell advertising on ESPN.com specifically tied to Olympic highlight videos. Two days into the deal, NBC clarified that ESPN could not have advertising anywhere on a webpage that featured Olympic video — terms that ESPN felt would have put its existing ad commitments in jeopardy. “We were pleased with the partnership, but there were advertising conflicts which prevented us from continuing it,” NBC said in an emailed statement.
ESPN emailed with a similar sounding statement: “Even though both sides were committed, we couldn’t make it work given specific requirements. Our extensive television and digital coverage of Rio 2016 continues as planned.”
It was unusual to see ESPN and NBC team up like this in the first place, as NBC has often been quite restrictive with its Olympic footage. However, while the loss of affiliate traffic here may diminish NBC’s online traffic a little given the prominence of ESPN.com, they still have digital deals with companies like Yahoo, BuzzFeed, Google/YouTube and Facebook/Instagram. There are still going to be plenty of referrals to NBC’s site, and plenty of people checking out its streams and highlights. This might be a harsher loss for ESPN, as they no longer have the ability to offer the highlights many are looking for, but those highlights were pretty limited (10 45-second clips per day), and there still are going to be tons of people reading ESPN.com’s Olympic coverage without them. It is interesting to see a much-discussed partnership like this collapse so quickly, though, and it illustrates the importance of working out the details of a deal like this in advance.