Here’s a fun lesson in looking a bit below the surface when it comes to a press release. NBC Sports sent out a fairly standard year-end “We’re doing a great job!” release, focusing on their admittedly strong digital streaming stats for 2016.
You can find the whole thing here, if you’re bored and/or enjoy bar graphs.
Cynically, of course, 2016 was an Olympic year, the Summer Olympics at that. The Olympics function as NBC’s tentpole franchise, and thus the various charts comparing year-over-year performance relative to the prior two calendar years are going to be a bit skewed. They pay a fortune for the Olympics, so they should be drawing viewers.
Though obviously they still count. And there are some interesting facts and figures regarding increased streaming for more niche sports as well, including Golf, NASCAR, and horce racing. (Winner for oddest mention: the performance of GolfNow, an app that facilitates booking tee times at golf courses, which operates under The Golf Channel umbrella.)
And not to keep hammering NBC for this sort of release, but streaming numbers are going up, and have been for the past few years thanks to cord-cutting and other factors. Again, NBC can still take credit for the stats, that’s not an issue. But at a certain point, with streaming becoming more relevant to the vitality of the industry, networks are going to have to fold in the streaming numbers, instead of segregating the two sides.
The Nielsen ratings aren’t going anywhere, of course. But the streaming side of the business is here to stay, and will definitely be a part of the future of broadcasting in general, and sports broadcasting in particular. In theory, those numbers offer a more detailed and accurate look at viewership, too, which could lead to ad revenue in the form of targeted commercials, among other features.
It’s impossible to say when, but at some point, the idea that there’s a material difference between streaming a game and watching a traditional broadcast is going to disappear entirely, and that will almost certainly impact how networks present ratings.
It will likely not impact how you can book a tee time, though. That’s going to have to stay in its own box.