3,000+ Hours Of Olympic Video: Can Search Engine Users Find It?

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, NBCOlympics.com is streaming 2,200 hours of exclusive live Olympic video, as well as over 3,000 hours of replays. This content is housed exclusively on the NBC site. Users can search NBCOlympics.com to watch their favorite highlights or catch something they may have missed. But can hungry Olympic video fans find their way to this mass of popular NBC content? Like the number of gold medals Michael Phelps will win, this remains to be seen.

According to the New York Times, NBC expects to generate $1 billion in ad revenue from their exclusive rights to the Olympics, which they spent $900 million for. So let’s take a look at NBC’s Olympic online video distribution strategy. NBC owns the rights to the Olympic video content and hopes to drive consumers to their Web site in order to provide advertisers with the eyeballs they promised and maximize ad revenue. Currently, they are running TV commercials, as well as a paid search campaign, to boost awareness for Olympic video content at the NBC site. MSN.com carries live video streams, so MSN users are most likely finding their way to the NBC Olympic video site without even using LiveSearch. Also, AOL Video displays NBC content in its search results, re-directing users who click on the NBC listings to the NBC Olympic video site.

YouTube, on the other hand, which is likely witnessing heavier search traffic for Olympic video than AOL Video/Truveo, is not showing any of the exclusive NBC content. NBC has made the business decision to bypass a YouTube channel in hopes that consumers go to the native NBC site for the content. YouTube is streaming Olympic content to users in territories not controlled by NBC and other sponsors. This includes South Korea, India, and 75 other places where exclusive broadcast rights have not been sold.

The biggest question is whether searchers on Google and Yahoo! are able to find the NBC video when searching for Olympic video content. It appears as if both Google and Yahoo! are indexing this content. The problem is, just because Olympic videos are in the index doesn’t mean that they are ranking well. For instance, I performed a Google and Yahoo! search for “Michael Phelps arrives in Beijing,” the title of one of the videos on the NBC site. Although the title of the video isn’t in the title tag (all the NBC videos have the same title tag), the NBC Olympic video is ranked number one. On Yahoo!, it’s ranked number three. A little further down the Google search results page, I see the same video, this time from AOL Video, which will redirect me to the NBC site. Both search results do not show embedded videos.

Phelps Olympics

As expected, we see the NBC Olympics search result come up for a long-tail search that directly matches the copy on the page. But what if I try a different search? Perhaps a search that sees a lot more volume, such as “Michael Phelps video.” In this case, I don’t see any NBC Olympic video results (or AOL Video directing to NBC results) in the first 10 pages. I do see four embedded Michael Phelps videos on the first page (two from YouTube), along with an older AOL Video result not from the NBC Olympics site.

It’s possible that things may change on the Google search results page once Michael Phelps wins more gold medals and NBC posts more Phelps-related video. But unless the NBC Olympics site shows up embedded on Google for high volume keywords, NBC is going to miss out on a lot of traffic from search. It’s in the best interest of both Google and NBC to have the freshest and most relevant video appear embedded on the first page of results above older YouTube content. It would be best if the video were embedded, like most of the YouTube video results generally seen on the search results page. The fact that AOL Video is showing the NBC Olympic results may help in getting the content ranked on Google. However, with AOL redirecting users to the NBC site, the video will most likely not get embedded on the search results page. This is because an embedded result generally leads a user directly to the video.

So what can NBC do better to distribute their in-demand Olympic video content? Unique title-tags with targeted keywords for each individual video will help the videos rank better in search. Posting a limited number of Olympic clips on an NBC YouTube channel, or perhaps the Universal Sports YouTube Channel, would also be an effective strategy. These clips can serve as a type of “teaser” that give people a taste and then directs them to the NBC Olympic video site for more content. This also gives NBC a much better chance of Google and Yahoo! spidering their YouTube content, ranking it higher, embedding it on the search results page, and getting it in front of Olympic video-hungry searchers.

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