How Publishers Changed The Way We Consumed the 2018 Winter Olympics

New ways of storytelling brought the Olympics to life for viewers at home and on-the-go.

Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Photo Credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

In just a few days, the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea and over the last few weeks, D1A HQ has been abuzz with Olympic fever.

Office water cooler highlights include the criticism Team USA received for their fringy gloves; Norway’s men’s curling team’s pants (a personal favorite), as well as trying to understand what curling is exactly and if we could do it in the office; Mirai Nagasu’s triple axel; the stuffed animals medalists receive; Leslie Jones’ tweets; P.F Chang’s; robots, and of course, the “Cool Teens” who shredded up the snow to win gold medals.

Team USA’s official Olympic uniform. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ralph Lauren via The Cut
The Norway men’s curling team for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, from left: Christoffer Svae, Haavard Peterson, Thomas Ulsrud, Torger Nergaard. Photo Credit: TIME

While we’ve been interested in all aspects of the games from the slopes to the rink, we’ve been most excited about the myriad of ways the Olympics were brought to life for viewers at home and on the go. Publishers like NBC (Comcast NBCUniversal is a Day One Agency #client)–the official sponsor of the 2018 Winter Olympics–and The New York Times gave us a new way to engage and interact with this year’s Olympic stories.

NBC Went Live in All Time Zones

In addition to broadcasting its prime-time coverage across all time zones, NBC will live stream (by the end of the games) a total of 1800 hours throughout the games (in total there will be 2,400+ hours of NBC Olympics’ live, on demand and streaming coverage — the most ever for a Winter Games). Live streaming of all competitions has been available on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app for authenticated users as well as on X1 for Xfinity subscribers.

This Sunday, NBC will livestream the closing ceremony without commentary across all U.S. time zones for the first time in Olympic Games history. Prime time coverage of the closing ceremony with commentary will begin at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific.

NBC Partnered with Snap Inc. to Expand Coverage

On the social front, NBC partnered with Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, to create special content just for the platform. This partnership (NBC also worked with Snap Inc. for the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio), has been exciting for a few reasons;NBC is utilizing new features on Snapchat including live streaming content and working with Buzzfeed for custom content creation, including two original shows throughout the Games and context cards that have facts and updates during the events. In addition, NBC went live on Snapchat for once a day, giving users access to exclusive content and behind-the-scenes footage, like figure skater Adam Rippon cheering on his fellow Team USA teammates.

Example Content on Snapchat

NBC Went Virtual

NBC also partnered with Intel to create a virtual reality viewing option for anyone with NBC’s Sports VR app and a headset. NBC premiered VR viewing during the 2016 Rio Olympics opening ceremonies, but PyeongChang marked the first time viewers could watch actual events in virtual reality. By partnering exclusively with Intel’s True VR, NBC was able to offer VR viewing for 30 events, some of which were live. And many are expecting that number to climb–and the UX to improve–drastically at the 2020 Olympics.

Photo Credit: Intel

The New York Times Debuted Augmented Reality

PyeongChang also allowed us to consume stories around the Olympics in augmented reality. Earlier this month, The New York Times rolled out a new form of storytelling just in time for the games in an article that focused on four Olympic athletes: Nathan Chen, J.R. Celski, Alex Rigsby, and Anna Gasser. Using immersive journalism, TheNew York Times was able to bridge the gap between the real and digital world, and show us a true 360-view of the athletes and their abilities.

Using AR, the New York Times made it possible for us to see Chen do a quadruple jump in our office as we read about how he could jump 20 inches off the ice. We watched Celski short-track speed skate on our conference table as we learned about the razor-sharp blades of his skate. We looked through Rigsby’s helmet and saw what a 70mph puck flying at the goal would be like. And we traced the flight path of Gasser’s signature trick–the three rotations and two flips, otherwise known as the backside double cork 1080.

Playing around with The NYT app at D1A HQ

In addition to AR, The New York Times used interactive storytelling to highlight both Chen and Gasser again, as well as Mikaela Shiffrin and Chloe Kim. The content featured video interviews and displayed the athletes in action.

Graphic of the motions of Gasser’s trick. Photo Credit: The New York Times

Complementing the use of new digital platforms and tools, The New York Times included a good old fashioned print special, the pano-8, in their February 9 edition of the paper. Utilizing slow-motion and motion-capture technology, the New York Times graphics department created a collection of illustrations of each athlete in motion, and showed how print and digital can work together to amplify each other.

Pano-8. Photo Credit: The New York Times

This year, technology granted us an all-access pass to the Olympics, and it was nothing short of captivating. Thanks to boundary-pushing platforms and storytelling from NBC and The New York Times, viewers were able choose how and when they wanted to watch, as well as how immersed they wanted to be. And that’s only the beginning. Tech-immersed Tokyo will host the next Olympic Games in the summer of 2020, and we can’t wait to see how publishers will bring it to life.