Can NBC Product Managers Make The Olympics An All Year Event?

We like the Olympics, but do we like them all year long?
We like the Olympics, but do we like them all year long?
Image Credit: Ryan Lejbak

If there is one television program that just about everyone watches, after the Superbowl it’s probably the Olympics. These sporting events bring the best athletes from all around the world together for a short period of time. They get to compete against each other for personal glory and in a quest to win the most metals for their country. In the U.S., Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit owns the broadcast rights to the Olympics. Their product managers have come up with a way to get us to watch even more Olympics on television.

NBC’s Plan

NBC has invested a great deal of money in being the single source of Olympic television coverage in the U.S. They have spent US$8B to secure all media rights associated with the Olympics in the U.S. through 2032. The NBC product managers know that in order to make this investment pay off, they are going to have to get people to watch the Olympics when they are on television. This is where the problem is. It turns out that ratings for watching the Olympics on television have been falling in the U.S. That’s not going to look good on anyone’s product manager resume.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) realizes that they have a problem on their hands. What they have committed to doing is creating a new generation of Olympic sports fans. The Olympics are held every four years (every two years if you count the alternating Winter and Summer games). While they are being held, the games last for 17 days. The NBC product managers now have the challenge of trying to keep people interested in the Olympics in the years between events.

The plan that these product managers have come up with is to change their product development definition and launch an Olympic television channel. The plan is for the new television channel to show competitions and other Olympic programming during every day of the year. Setting up and then promoting a new television channel is clearly a major investment on the part of NBC. What they are doing is spending even more money on top of the money that has been spent to secure the rights to broadcast the Olympics. This investment will only work out if they are able to get more people to watch more Olympic coverage more of the time.

How Product Managers Hope To Be Successful

What the NBC product managers need to be aware of is that this is not the first time that their parent company has attempted to do something like this. NBC has tried to create a version of an Olympics sport television channel before. Back in the day, they invested in a channel that was called the “Universal Sports Network”. The goal of this channel was to win over sports fans and get a wide spread distribution. However, that channel ended up closing down when they were not able to achieve their goals.

Any time that you want to start up a new television channel, it’s going to take a fair amount of money. The IOC would like to be able to set up Olympic television channels in many different countries. In order to help make this happen, the IOC has approved the spending of $500M through 2021 in order to make it happen. The IOC is willing to work with NBC to help them set up their U.S. based Olympic television channel. NBC is spending part of the $8B that they’ve invested in the Olympics to create the new channel. The IOC has agreed to contribute $8M to the project.

Just creating a new television channel is not going to be enough to make the NBC product managers successful. The next step is going to be to get the channel into the living rooms of the sports fans that will end up watching it hopefully. What this means is that NBC is going to have to sit down with all of the major cable television distributors and get them to agree to carry yet another channel on their lineup. This may turn out to be a major challenge as cable companies are struggling with cable cutters who complain about there being too many channels that they don’t watch. However, NBC has been able to get AT&T’s DirectTV service to already agree to carry the new channel.

What All Of This Means For You

One of the most popular programs on television is the televised coverage of the Olympic sporting games. In the U.S., NBC has heavily invested in order to be able to exclusively cover these games. However, the NBC product managers have a problem. Television viewership of the Olympic Games has been decreasing over the past few years. They need to review their product manager job description and make some changes.

What the NBC product managers have decided to do is to launch a new television channel that will provide Olympic content all year long every year. This new venture has the support of the International Olympic Committee and they have even agreed to contribute $8m to the project. Once the new channel is created, the product managers will then have to establish deals with the various cable television companies in order to get them to carry the new channel. DirectTV has already agreed to do so.

The NBC product managers have a very valuable property on their hands: everyone wants to watch the next Olympics. However, in order to make the large investment in the Olympics that NBC has made work out, the product managers are going to have to both create a new Olympics television channel and then find a way to get sports fans to watch it. We are going to have to sit back and see how they go about making this happen…!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How can the NBC product managers get sports fans to watch sporting events where the outcome is already known?

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