What’s Driving Facebook’s Olympics Deal With NBC? A Battle With Twitter For TV Presence

Facebook and NBC are expected to announce a partnership today for the London Olympic Games. In short, Facebook users will be reminded to watch NBC’s coverage and NBC viewers will be reminded to join the conversation on Facebook.

Let’s get the facts out of the way quickly so we can get down to the more interesting implications, like what it means for Facebook’s future monetization, rivalry with Twitter and more. As reported by The New York Times:

  • Facebook and NBC have said that no money is changing hands in this deal.
  • The NBC Olympics page on Facebook will be frequently updated with exclusive content for fans who have liked the page. Users will be able to let Facebook friends know when they watch videos and read articles on NBC’s web site.
  • NBC’s daily prime-time broadcast will promote a daily Olympics poll on Facebook. NBC will also be featuring a “Talk Meter” on some segments, attempting to highlight and summarize Facebook data on user conversations. “NBC is going to turn that data into stories,” Mr. Mitchell said in the NYT story.

On the surface, it looks like a straightforward marketing partnership where Facebook gets web traffic plus promotion on TV, while NBC gets a more engaging viewer experience and reminders on Facebook for people to turn on their television. This allows both to earn more money from advertising.

But its important to note how different this is than Facebook’s Olympics deal with BBC. BBC will live stream Olympic events on Facebook. The BBC deal is way better for Facebook because people will stay on Facebook to watch, rather than leaving to watch or splitting their attention between two screens.. This NBC deal is most similar to Facebook’s collaboration with CNN for the 2012 election. Both deals cast Facebook as the “second screen” to TV, and the underlying idea of both is to push traffic to each other’s platform while increasing their exposure.

So why would Facebook agree to a lesser deal than the one they struck with the BBC? Could this be part of a broader strategy for Facebook? Here are a few possibilities:

Bird Hunting

I’m hunting wabbits exposure

Twitter has had a much stronger grasp on sports broadcasting: NBC had a “Twitter Tracker” for the 2010 Vancouver Games and the most recent NBA Finals featured Twitter on ESPN screens. And NBC can still strike a deal with Twitter for these Olympics. But Facebook struck first, and they have locked up enviable exposure during primetime. At the very least, this breaks up Twitter’s monopoly–viewers will be reminded to use both social networks for discussion, not just Twitter anymore.

Good PR post IPO

The Hindenburg before she blew up in Lakehurst N.J.
And then, Priscilla, we’ll sail off into the sunset!

After its Hindenburg of an IPO, Facebook could use some positive press. Having Facebook across every TV screen in America is a great way to distract people from your share price.

“It’s terrific exposure,” said Andy Mitchell, a former executive at CNN who now manages partnerships at Facebook.

This is probably a positive of the overall strategy, but there has to be something bigger at work here. Which brings me to the next one…

World Domination (my personal favorite)
Pinky and the Brain

What are we going to do today, Brain? The same thing we do everyday…try to take over the world.

The more varied ways that users interact with Facebook, the more sticky (and valuable) their platform becomes. Now, users will read the news, interact with live events on TV, and, in the UK, actually watch live events, all on Facebook.

NBC is putting Facebook polls, not Gallup polls or their own reporting, on its broadcasts; not only does this underscore the value of Facebook’s data, but it pits them directly against Twitter’s partners Mass Relevance and Crimson Hexagon for syndication of social media data.

Future Revenue Streams
NFL logo

Has anyone done better in TV rights negotiations in recent years than the NFL?

If viewers become accustomed to Facebook integration with coverage of the Olympics and elections, it could put Facebook in a very good negotiating position for future events. The Olympics is a special case because NBC has exclusive coverage rights. But imagine giving a network the competitive edge of exclusive Facebook integrating for their news shows. Think about what those bidding rights could go for.


What’s next, a deal to have live Facebook reactions during Maury? I’d watch that…

Facebook doesn’t lose anything by trying out these partnerships with NBC, BBC and CNN. They may not have any more of a clue than we do. They aren’t locked into anything past the November election, so they can see what they like and make tweaks for future partnerships or scrap it entirely.

Images, in order from Hindenburg: (Flickr/Boston Public Library), (Flickr/Happysteve), (Flickr/Matt McGee), (Quick Meme)