Rio is coming, but most of us who work in social media won’t be able to talk about it. Snapchat on the other hand can reign above the rest of us mortals thanks to a winning deal with NBC Olympics.
NBC are giving away the rights to distribute sporting highlights on Snapchat at no extra cost. The channel that has been notoriously guarded with their golden sports footage since 1988 are now giving it away for free! Snapchat have the rights to diffuse the highlights of the games on a dedicated channel in real time. Partnering up with Buzzfeed, they will show the races, record breakers, behind the scene moments, and of course those all-important selfies of our sporting heroes.
Sadly, it will not be broadcast to all. As NBC is an American channel, Snapchat coverage is limited to the American public. However, as far as sports coverage on social media is concerned, this is a big moment, and we are likely to see many more deals with other platforms such as Twitter and Facebook before the torch arrives.
Before, there was television…
NBC’s deal shows how our relationship with our sporting heroes has changed. A decade ago, we would be happy to watch the Games on TV – NBC would broadcast the events with running commentary and various interviews and that would be the closest we would get to the athletes. Since the birth of social media however, we are used to knowing our favourite sporting stars on a more personal level and participating in their lives by commenting on their activities. We don’t want to simply watch Usain Bolt win another race, we want the footage of him training before it starts, his thoughts on Twitter, and what he’ll be wearing to break records. The stats clearly demonstrate this shift: followers of sporting stars such as Ronaldo, Bolt and Beckham are in the millions while 24% less young people watch sports on television since the London 2012 Olympics. NBC needs to get behind these younger people who do not care about TV anymore and produce content for them – on Snapchat.
At London 2012, Snapchat would not have had a chance of such a deal. The app was originally known as a device for teenagers to send disappearing images to their peers, keeping their parents out the scene. That was before they introduced a feature called ‘Stories’. This feature allows the user to create a log of pictures, quick videos or ‘snaps’ of their day that they are able to share with their friends. You can add as many ‘snaps’ to your story as you want, but they only last 24 hours and then the story disappears. This was the first social media app to allow users to share videos in a quick and creative way, while putting it in a narrative structure- a story. As the ephemeral images create a sense of urgency, snaps are created and consumed quickly and continually, which makes it one of the most addictive apps going.
The NBC channel could have approached any social media platform with their highly-prized footage, why did they choose Snapchat? Because it is a massive hit with young folk. On any given day, Snapchat reaches 41% of all 18-34-year olds in the United States. This adds up to millions of young Americans, who will now have the Games at their fingertips rather than on their TV. About time too! NBC is hoping to engage this young audience, keep their interest throughout the sporting events by giving a variety of footage rather than a singular race and predictable interview.
Snapchat have also nailed the right way of broadcasting events. The Games highlights that can be watched live by millions within seconds fit easily into a ‘snap’. These ‘snaps’ will feature content from a variety of sources, including NBC, the athletes themselves, and even fans who attend the events in Brazil. The fans’ content is a vital part of Snapchat, and will uncover what Rio is really like. All these ‘snaps’ will be curated under the Snapchat channel ‘Discover’- a set of media partners who create content uniquely for the app.
The Games on Snapchat is undeniably a shrewd move for the NBC, who are desperate to reach out to a younger audience. The app has already successfully covered major events such as the Super bowl and Coachella, and the audience were watching in their millions. Not bad for an app that was so overlooked by the older audience who, like myself, simply do not understand it. But the new deal has made it official- we will be watching major events on social media more and more. Whether Snapchat will continue to be the chosen app to cover such global events is entirely up to the teenage audience. In the last decade from MSN, to Myspace, to Facebook to Snapchat, the number 1 social media platform is continually changing, and there is no reason for it to stop now. Meanwhile, Instagram has recently announced its own ‘Stories’ feature, becoming a major contender and the next best thing for this prized audience. The race continues…