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Social Media Drives TV Viewership 52% at London Olympics

The numbers are in from Google and they show, yet again, that social media doesn’t kill broadcast media. It complements it. Had the IOC and its official sponsors really understood this, perhaps they wouldn’t have issued their draconian social media policy [PDF].

In a post about the real reasons why the Social Media Policy (aka #Rule40) at the London Olympics failed, I argued that the IOC’s biggest oversight was the supposition that if athletes recognize their sponsors via social media during the games, the value of official sponsorship and television advertising is somehow diminished.

They assumed that the media landscape is a zero sum game and that the absence of unofficial sponsors in social media would be a gain for official sponsors in mainstream media. That’s what happens when digitally illiterate gatekeepers from a bygone era try and police the digital world by analog standards, and no doubt trying to appease their equally challenged advertisers played a role. It takes the strength and vision of truly enlightened leadership to realize that extending the reach of live events via the web doesn’t have to cannibalize attendance.

Citing a Wall Street Journal story by Suzanne Vranica, I wrote “social media drives traffic to owned media, increasing the number of eyeballs broadcasters have to sell to paid media.”

Many viewers turned to one or more “second screens” beyond TV to keep updated on the Olympics—nearly half of those who did (44 percent) did so via a mobile phone or tablet.

Where do you think those second screens went?  The fact is, Google didn’t answer that question, probably because they’re still fighting to establish their foothold in social media, but I know how I was using my cell phone, and you’re reading this, you were probably on the real time web or Get Glue as well. But for those still struggling to accept the new reality, here’s the coup de grace:

Second-screen viewing didn’t seem to diminish participants’ interest in watching the games on TV…in fact, it increased it. People who followed the Games on TV plus one other screen watched 52 percent more Olympics on TV than those who didn’t; people who followed on two additional screens spent more than twice as much time (105 percent) with TV. And people who watched live streams of events online watched 66 percent more Olympics on television than people who followed exclusively on TV.

Rule 40 not only fumbled the chance to level the playing field for all Olympians be giving non-state sponsored competitors a way to satisfy their sponsors, it also skirted a ratings gain, not to mention stained the reputation of the International Olympic Organizing Committee.  They protected themselves in the court of law and lost in the court of public opinion.

If you’d like to learn how to see what a practical, win-win social media policy looks like, here’s a half price link good for the first three sign-ups to take my online course on drafting social media policies.

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