Olympics fans in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia will soon have a way to catch up with the 2018 Winter Olympics without looking down at their phones during their commute.
Later this week, NBC Olympics will begin showcasing content from Pyeongchang, South Korea—videos and visuals such as highlights, summaries, previews, medal counts and athlete bios—on digital displays on streets and in mass transit systems in those three cities. Through a partnership with Intersection, a New York-based smart cities and media company, NBC hopes to broaden its Olympics footprint while reminding people to watch the games on TV or on NBC’s mobile app.
According to NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, the goal is to reach viewers beyond their usual consumption habits. Since there is a 14-hour time difference between the East Coast and South Korea, Zenkel said he hopes it will also provide ongoing content even though the games are half a world away. That means having highlights from the night before during the morning commute in the U.S. to show people what happened while they were still sleeping.
“There’s a real-time presence of Olympic content that’s accompanying people who are either heading to work or doing what they do as they maneuver the streets of New York, Philly and Chicago,” he told Adweek during an interview from South Korea.
Starting Thursday, around 4,000 digital displays will begin showing Olympics content for about three to six minutes every hour. The New York City monoliths stand 9.5 feet tall, and have 55-inch display screens. Zenkel said the goal is to increase the “appetite” for Olympics content.
The idea came about a couple of months ago after Zenkel noticed the LinkNYC stands around New York. Soon after that, Zenkel ran into Intersection chief revenue officer Marta Martinez and decided to contact her later to learn more about the displays.
“I saw these kiosks popping up on what felt like at least every city block and in some cases corners and was intrigued,” Zenkel said.
This is the first major content play for Intersection, which has digital display partnerships with a number of major cities in the U.S. Screens can show all kinds of content, including ads like Apple’s Shark Tank-style show, “Planet of the Apps,” as well as offer free Wi-Fi. Other Intersection markets include Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis and most recently Los Angeles.
The Olympics content will be displayed across the 1,300 LinkNYC kiosks in New York; on digital panels and displays in the Chicago Transit Authority system; and on bus shelters, urban panels and other displays in Philadelphia’s mass transit system and streets.
“It ties back to our core mission, which is to improve [the] daily life of cities through technology,” said Intersection CEO Ari Buchalter. “I think a big part of that is around delivering unique and powerful content experiences in the public space, in particular those that are sort of human-scale, look-up experiences as opposed to the content that people often consume on their mobile phones.”
The initial plan late last year was to find advertisers among NBC’s existing content sponsors. However, Zenkel said the plan came together just before the games were set to begin, and the two companies decided not to exchange any money—unless they’re able to find an advertiser at the last minute.
“The Olympics is a uniquely massive event,” Zenkel said. “I don’t think anyone who walks down the street seeing some great Olympic content is going to say, ‘Hmm, how did this end up here?’”
Buchalter said Intersection is also in talks to bring other types of content to public spaces. That might include news, social media, local info or cultural content. Buchalter said revenue agreements depend on each contract. However, the share with LinkNYC, a joint partnership with New York City, is split in half.
“If you only see an ad, then you eventually become blind to that space,” he said.