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Week In Review: Peacock’s Olympic Coverage Still Ruffling Feathers, Nielsen Still Under Attack, Responds With Wearables

1. Peacock’s Olympic Coverage Still Ruffling Feathers

One of the most pervasive memes of the 2021 Olympics is the one about how hard it is to figure out how to watch anything on Peacock. That’s a shame, because the service really was betting on signing viewers up during the Games and keeping them onboard, and the negative buzz is likely a sign that’s not going well.

Why It Matters

It seems that most of the confusion stems from the fact that many viewers did not realize that Peacock was a subscription service.

This is understandable, as when NBCU first signed viewers up last year, the service was free. The move was actually a smart one: in the absence of the 2020 Olympics and not much in the way of original programming, trading email addresses for free access to the service was a wise move and NBCU signed up somewhere north of 20 million people that way.

Their mistake, one many of us pointed out at the time, was that nowhere in that original sign-up process did they indicate that Peacock was actually a paid subscription service which left most subscribers believing the service was NBC’s own FAST. The only people who wound up paying were fans of English Premier League football, who came in via some back door.

Unfortunately, none of NBCU’s Olympics promotions did anything to disabuse viewers of the notion that Peacock was free, and social media and anecdotal evidence seem to indicate they continued to believe it was free, right up to the moment they logged into their account and clicked on a sport they want to watch, at which point a pop-up appeared with a message to the effect of “this is only available for people with a subscription. You know, one you actually pay for.”

Okay, it wasn’t that snarky, but the fact remains that NBCU would have been much better served by telling people in advance that they needed to upgrade to one of the two subscription versions of the service , while explaining all the great features they’d have access to if they did.

I’m not sure why they didn’t realize that all those free viewers would assume that Olympic Peacock would still be ad-supported and free, but even after it became an issue they did not seem to take any steps to ameliorate it.

We will have to see what sort of subscriber bump Peacock gets from the Olympics—did most people eventually bite the bullet and pay the five dollars for a month of Peacock, or did they just flip back to NBC’s live(ish) coverage in disgust?

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re NBCU, you’ve probably realized you should have researched the whole “What Do You Mean I Have To Pay For This?” thing. 

That said, you should probably try reaching out to all of the new and free subscribers with some sort of offer–a free month of paid Peacock or whatnot. While having a show that’s getting a lot of buzz is going to be the best way to get them to sign up, a free month might encourage more upgrading and sampling in the interim.

In terms of free, you should do a better job of integrating Xumo into Peacock, making that the core component of free Peacock and using the free service as a way to entice viewers into the paid service. 

That’s as easy as showing a few free episodes of one of Peacock’s originals and telling them they need to subscribe to see the rest. (A tactic that would have worked wonders for your Olympic coverage, btw.) But the more you can keep people watching some sort of NBC-owned streaming service, the better.

If you’re one of the other Flixes, NBCU’s issues should serve as a warning that streaming is confusing to most viewers, they’re not nearly as conversant with how it all works as you might think they are, and it’s in your best interest to over, rather than under explain and allocate a good chunk of your marketing budgets to educating them.

2. Nielsen Still Under Attack, Responds With Wearables

Nielsen continues to come under attack from the various networks. This week it was Discovery Warner CEO David Zaslav calling them “unreliable” and “antiquated” on a recent earnings call, and claiming that “everyone has lost money as a result.”

This is on the heels of the VAB calling for Nielsen to be “disaccredited” by the MRC and a whole lot of general griping about their inability to deal with the pandemic.

In response (or perhaps coincidentally) Nielsen announced that it was going to be rolling out wearable people meters, devices that can be worn on the panelists wrists like a Fitbit or Whoop, or as a pendant around their neck, like the Hope diamond.

Why It Matters

When ratings were good, networks weren’t all that bothered by how random Nielsen’s ratings were. I mean it’s not like the fact that Nielsen ratings are shaky is news to anyone. But a combination of lowered ratings, panelist issues during lockdown and the ability to see the far greater accuracy available with ACR and set top box ratings has seemingly lifted the scales from the industry’s eyes.

That and the fact that Nielsen has been struggling for the better part of a decade to figure out this internet thing and still seems a long way off, despite all the noise about NielsenOne.

What’s more, they are only planning to roll out 3,000 of these wearables and they won’t be locked and loaded until the second half of 2022, so a full year away.

The good news for Nielsen is that there doesn’t seem to be a widely accepted Plan B in place and the last thing that brands want is for networks to all come up with their own ways of measuring things. There are plenty of heirs apparent in the wings, everyone from iSpot and Comscore to the smart TV OEMs, but until the industry comes together and says “yes, this is how we’re all measuring things nowadays” there will be anger and confusion.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re Nielsen, you need to react. Yes much of this is because linear viewing is indeed dropping. But you need to help your own cause. 

That means stop announcing things like wearables with three thousand participants as that only baits the bear. Emphasize instead that you’re adding in ACR and set top box data and are going to be measuring far more people than you ever have before. Remind everyone that measuring households is different than measuring individuals the way Facebook and Google do, and that panels are actually a great way to get people-based stats.

If you’re one of Nielsen’s potential competitors, this is your time. Everyone is down on NIelsen and likely to be more open than ever to your sales pitches.

If you’re one of the networks, remember that advertisers see what you’re doing, but also would like better measurement so they’re not going to call you out on it. You need to get better measurement in place for your streaming properties along with attribution and show marketers why the stats you can provide them with are just as valuable as the ones they get from Google. Which means moving beyond your comfort zone and promoting some of the aforementioned alternative players.

If you’re a brand, keep putting the heat on for more accurate measurement and better and more consistent use of viewer data. You’re entitled and getting better data is entirely within the realm of possible.