NBCU Hands Snapchat Account to BuzzFeed and Earns Gold

NBCUniversal handed control of its Snapchat account to BuzzFeed during the Summer Olympics, giving nearly total editorial control of its Discover channel to 12 BuzzFeed video producers on location in Rio. The BuzzFeed team produced up to 20 pieces daily, with a focus on the athletes and local activities. The experiment of distributing content via social platforms and the media/messaging app resulted in a big win for NBCU, generating 2.2 billion views across the pop-up Discover channel and daily Live Stories, for a total of 230 million minutes of consumption.

NBC trusted the BuzzFeed producers with its Discover channel. “We would talk to them every morning — what we were focusing on and the stories that were emerging, and there would be some coordination that way,” said Gary Zenkel, president of strategy and operations for NBC Sports Group and president of NBC Olympics. “But we did not want to impair their ability to exercise and flex their creative muscles for that day’s edition.”


Rather than reporting on the competitions like traditional media, BuzzFeed producers targeted a Snapchat audience by taking a unique approach to covering athletes and the Olympic atmosphere.

For example, when Michael Phelps visited the International Broadcast Center for interviews with NBC and Telemundo, he also met with the BuzzFeed producers. However, Snapchat users saw a different take than what was broadcast on television.

According to Digiday, “viewers saw Phelps’ face swapped with various other famous Olympians, among other Snapchat-centric content. Other BuzzFeed-produced Rio Discover content included a series of videos and images that showed the funny faces athletes make during the heat of battle.”

“They took athletes and presented them in a way that we historically haven’t,” said Zenkel. “It was designed for the Snapchat audience.”

NBCU and Snapchat teamed up for 5-7 daily Live Stories. “BuzzFeed did not contribute to this content, instead it was pulled from NBC Sports’ 10-person social media team, athletes, celebrities, social influencers and even fans on the ground in Rio,” notes Digiday.

“What we discovered was that there was such an appetite for this, that it made sense to create several Live Stories during the day,” said Zenkel. “They would spend one Live Story on beach volleyball alone.”

Not surprisingly, the games in Rio marked NBCU’s most social Olympics to date, including partnerships with Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. And younger audiences responded. For example, NBC scored more than 600 million video views on Facebook.

“NBC said nearly 50 million viewers streamed 3.4 billion minutes of Rio coverage on Web, mobile and connected devices. Over half of those viewers were under 35,” reports USA Today. “On Facebook, 227 million people interacted with 1.5 billion posts, while Twitter users sent 187 million tweets, yielding 75 billion impressions.”