Quick show of hands: did you watch the Olympics as it streamed live on NBC?

If so, you were part of a dwindling audience, smaller than broadcasters expected. Prime-time broadcast viewership was down about 17 percent over 2012, and that’s if you’re over age 50. In the 18-49 age group, viewership fell by 25 percent.

Those stats, from Bloomberg News, must keep NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke awake at night. After all, he shared his Olympics “nightmare” – waking up to find ratings down by 20 percent. Scary stuff when your parent company pays $12 billion for long-term broadcast rights.

What strikes me is what Burke said would cause that nightmare. He predicted that viewing would slip because “Millennials had been in a Facebook bubble or a Snapchat bubble and the Olympics have come – and they didn’t know about it.”

That statement hints at a bigger bubble: one that assumes traditional broadcast content would still appeal to the masses if only they looked up from Facebook and Snapchat.

Commenting on MTV’s VMA Award’s 34 percent drop in viewers over last year, Media Post echoed the sentiment:

“Clearer than anything I’ve seen so far including the drop off in Olympics viewing,  the VMAs demonstrated the massive shift away from long-form live content on television to short-form content streamed online, particularly as viewed by millennials.”

Those of us who grew up on old-school TV may still love the experience. It was what we had, so it was good enough for our expectations. After all, didn’t most of us look forward to watching the Olympics on TV, happy to lean back on our sofas surrounded by friends and family?

That, back then, was the height of entertainment. We couldn’t have foreseen how the Internet, with its gush of content, social interaction and UX innovation, would reprogram viewing expectations.

Millennials, who grew up on Internet experiences, have a whole different take on what’s worth watching.

Traditional media continues to say “the Internet” is the problem, a pesky distraction that’s luring potential audiences away from something they’d otherwise love to view.

What’s really happening is that the rise of content, social, and new experiences on the Internet (and of course on mobile) has given rise to entirely new experiences that engage and immerse viewers in new, deeply satisfying ways.

Those experiences are interactive. They’re on-demand, ready to be enjoyed in short bursts, and enriched by multi-screen viewing. They may include social integration way beyond a Twitter feed streaming at the lower third of the screen. In the best cases they allow new user-controlled experiences, access to deeper content in easy-to-explore pathways, and a UX that puts the viewer in charge of their experience.

You don’t get that on the viewing experience traditional network providers are accustomed to delivering. This isn’t a case of “once they look up from Snapchat they’ll see how great this is.” It’s more like “We’d better look to what rising audiences are doing on Snapchat (and in eSports, and in video games, and even when they slide on their Virtual Reality goggles) and bring that level of immersion to our experience.”

“Live” in and of itself simply isn’t enough to cut it. Audiences will want more in the experience ahead.

Soon we’ll be sharing more of our network and its inherent “immersive reality” orientation – one that incorporates live as a building block rather than a final destination. Thinking beyond the current “TV” paradigm means looking at the reality viewers seek today, something far beyond any bubble. We believe in, and we’re building, a new way of aligning the best of traditional viewing with the impact of today’s rising innovations.

It’s a long-term commitment. The evolution of “viewing” has only begun. We’re moving from first-gen improvements like “live” and “apps” and into a new realm: immersive visual experiences. Real, virtual, live, on-demand, interactive, linear, and beyond: tomorrow’s audiences will demand new depth and richness in everything they watch.

We embrace innovation’s impact on visual experiences. There’s a path that bridges the best of old-school viewing with the excitement (and value) new practices enable, and that’s the path we’re taking. Some look at the future of broadcast and its inevitable changes as a nightmare. Here at AerNow, we’re all about building the dream.


Chris Dolan

Chris Dolan

CEO / Co-Founder at AerNow
Chris is CEO / Co-Founder of AerNow, a proven entrepreneur, and an avid fan of motorsports and live entertainment.
Chris Dolan

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