South Korea to send envoy to North following Olympics invitation

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is sending a special envoy to North Korea, following Pyongyang’s successful participation in the Winter Olympics.

According to the Blue House, Moon told US President Donald Trump in a phone call Thursday the visit would take place in the near future.

It appears to be in direct response to a personal invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered by his sister Kim Yo Jong during her visit to the South for the Games last month.

Moon doesn’t seem to be preparing for a personal trip above the demilitarized zone (DMZ) just yet, but sending an envoy to Pyongyang would be an important first step.

Multiple North Korean officials met with their South Korean counterparts before Kim’s Olympic trip last month in the first face-to-face meetings between the Koreas in almost two years in January.

In their phone call Thursday, Moon thanked Trump for his support during the Olympics, which included suspending joint military drills for the duration of the Games and dispatching Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s daughter Ivanka to South Korea.

The two leaders “agreed to continue efforts to maintain the momentum of inter-Korean dialogue and lead it to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” according to the Blue House statement.

Ramping up the rhetoric

Moon’s deployment of an envoy to the North appears to be an attempt to capitalize on the goodwill of the Olympics and improved inter-Korean relations. However, the thaw will be tested when the suspended US-South Korean military drills start in late March or early April.

According to the Yonhap news agency, officials in Seoul have said they will announce a date for the resumption of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises after the Paralympics, which finish on March 18.

There are already signs relations in the region are returning to their saber-rattling norm, with senior US officials briefing that the Trump administration is considering military action against North Korea if Pyongyang successfully builds a nuclear missile capable of hitting the US.

Concerns about the Trump administration’s policy towards Pyongyang were also raised this week with the departure of Joseph Yun, the top US State Department for North Korea, who was widely seen as a voice for diplomatic engagement in contrast to the increasingly hawkish National Security Council.

For its part, North Korea has also ramped up its rhetoric ahead of the resumption of military drills, which Pyongyang vehemently opposes, accusing them of destabilizing the Peninsula.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) last week accused the US of “openly going against” the “atmosphere for detente” created on the Peninsula by the Olympics.

“The Trump group’s racket for resuming the war exercises is a wild act of ruthlessly trampling even a small sprout of peace that has been now seen on the Korean peninsula,” KCNA said.

“It is a provocative act of chilling the active efforts of (North Korea) and enthusiasm of the international community to defuse tension and create a peaceful environment.”

In a separate release Thursday, KCNA called the US a “cancer of global peace” and accused it of fabricating a United Nations report accusing North Korea of cooperating with Syria on its chemical weapons program.

“America is spreading a far-fetched claim that we have cooperated with Syria in creating chemical weapons,” the news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying.

North Korea is opposed to the use of chemical weapons, it added, calling the US a “cancer of global peace as the biggest supplier of weapons in the world.”

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NBC’s $12B Olympic investment looking riskier

In 2011, NBC paid a total of $4.38 billion for the rights to the next four Olympics. Three years later it bought another six for $7.7 billion. At the time, the deals looked to many like a sure thing. Now, they have started looking like they could end up being more of a burden than a boon.

For years, the conventional wisdom in TV had been that even as younger viewers turned away from TV, live sports were invulnerable — after all, the thinking went, people wanted to watch live sports, well, live.

In 2012, viewership of the London Games was up even though many viewers had already seen the results on social media. An average of 31.1 million people tuned in to watch the Games when they aired during prime time on a tape delay.

But in the past two years, even sports have fallen victim to the same trends plaguing the broader industry. First the NFL’s ratings fell. Now we’ve seen that same drop hit consecutive Summer and Winter Games.

Viewership for the current Olympics on NBC is down 24% compared to Sochi among viewers aged 18-49, the age demographic most coveted by advertisers. (NBC notes that the demo is actually down only 15% when including viewers from both NBC and NBC Sports Network, which is airing prime time coverage of the Winter Games for the first time.)

But even the Opening Ceremony, which is typically a major draw, was down 8.6% from four years ago.

While the Winter Games tend to be less popular than those in the summer, the 2016 Rio Olympics didn’t fare much better.

Ratings then were down from 2012, and NBC reportedly had to issue advertisers “make-goods” in the form of free ad time because initial ads didn’t reach the agreed upon number of viewers.

NBC, like all networks, makes money from advertising and “retransmission” fees it charges cable providers and local stations to air its content. Networks typically know what their retransmission fees are going to be, they’re essentially baked into budgets, but advertising dollars aren’t guaranteed and are less secure, especially in today’s changing climate.

NBC, which is owned by Comcast, said its national ad sales are actually up from Sochi from $800 million to $920 million.

The last three Games have been profitable for NBC, and the 2016 Rio Games set a record Olympic profit of $250 million. The network expects to again make money off Pyeongchang.

Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a CNBC interview that he would “absolutely” renew or extend NBC’s Olympics contract.

“Our long-term Olympic rights agreement is the best in all of media. The Olympics have demonstrated the ability to assemble massive and diverse audiences on everything from broadcast television to Snapchat, and are uniquely suited to thrive in today’s expanding media landscape,” NBC Broadcasting and Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said in a statement. “We are very bullish on our investment.”

But the biggest question NBC faces isn’t Olympics profitability right now — it’s what this year’s poor ratings bode for profitability two years down the line, and four years, and so on.

One thing NBC points to is that the $12 billion rights deal extends to all platforms, including TV and digital.

According to NBC,13.9 million unique viewers have live-streamed content from these Olympics so far — double the 6.3 million viewers that Sochi had at this point.

But even when combining TV viewers with those watching via a live stream, total viewership is still down. Prime-time viewing saw an 8% drop from Sochi.

There are some factors this year that might not be an issue in subsequent Games.

American athletes have had a relatively poor showing in Pyeongchang, which has dampened enthusiasm among viewers here. The U.S. is currently ranked fourth in the global Olympic medal count with just 23 gold, silver and bronze medals. With only a handful of events left, Norway is dominating with 38 medals. In Sochi, Americans ended the Games leading the count, bringing home 28 medals.

Another issue is a change to men’s hockey, which is typically one of the most popular Winter Games sports in the U.S. This year, the NHL didn’t allow its players to compete in the Olympics, which meant less viewer interest — and a missed opportunity for NBC to promote the NHL games it airs.

Both of those factors likely hurt enthusiasm and ratings this year. But the bigger issue is still the industry-wide problem of viewers turning away, and more gold medals and professional hockey players aren’t likely to fix that.

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NBC’s Winter Olympics ratings down but not exactly on thin ice

NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, has been hit by a ratings drop half way through the games’ two-week run, but digital consumption has made it difficult to measure true viewership success.

The combined prime time viewership on NBC and NBC Sports Network are down 8% through Friday, according to the network.

The two networks are bringing in a combined viewership of 21.9 million in prime time, which is down from the 23.7 million viewers who tuned into NBC for the Sochi games in 2014, when the Winter Olympics were aired only on the main network during prime time. NBCSN did not provide prime time coverage four years ago.

NBC’s viewership alone fell 16% compared to Sochi. For the 18 to 49 years, the demographic most coveted by advertisers, the drop is a startling 24%. NBC and NBCSN together has seen the demo drop 17% compared to four years ago, according to the network.

The downward trend is in line with the Rio Summer Olympics, which also brought NBC sluggish ratings in 2016. The network owns the US media rights to the games until 2032.

NBC is still averaging about 20 million prime time viewers, which not only beats its rivals but it’s a ratings windfall that only live events can deliver. Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports, said last week that the network sold over $900 million of advertising for Pyeongchang.

The ratings drop is reflective of the “changing TV landscape,” according to Stefanie Morales, director of audience intelligence at Magna, a company that monitors audience trends. She said network prime time TV is down across the board so if “you’re compounding that loss over four years then these numbers don’t look as bad.”

Morales said that the video landscape has changed since 2014. Streaming companies are vying for the same eyeballs as major networks and social media offers bite-sized content so viewers don’t always have to tune in to know who scored medals.

“You don’t have to sit down and watch four hours of content to figure out who won anymore,” Morales said.

She added that some younger viewers could be tuning into the games on digital platforms instead of TV, but that it’s difficult right now to truly measure digital consumption.

The lack of Team USA medals could be another factor for the ratings hit.

“We have seen in past Olympics that when the U.S. is doing really well, the ratings have been better,” she said.

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Why you won’t see Olympics-themed McDonald’s ads this year

This year’s Winter Olympics will be a first for many athletes.

But for longtime sponsor McDonalds, it’ll be the last.

The fast food giant announced in June that it would end a decades-long partnership with the International Olympic Committee. The sponsorship was supposed to run through at least 2020, but McDonald’s pulled out of the deal early.

That means American audiences won’t see any Olympics-themed McDonald’s television advertisements during this year’s Games. It also means the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics will be the last to feature McDonald’s restaurants in the Olympic Park and Village.

Just two years ago, before the start of the Rio Olympics in 2016, McDonald’s was heavily promoting and praising its partnership.

“It’s a great opportunity for us and our business down in South America to really capitalize,” John Lewicki, senior director of sports marketing said at the time.

Yet less than a year later, McDonald’s changed its tune.

“We are proud of everything that we have achieved as an Olympic sponsor but as a part of our global growth plan, we are reconsidering all aspects of our business,” McDonald’s said in a statement to CNNMoney last week. “As a result, we have made the decision, in cooperation with the International Olympic Committee, to focus on different priorities.”

The IOC echoed that the decision to part ways was mutual.

Michael Payne, a former IOC marketing director, told CNNMoney that the split makes sense for both parties.

“McDonald’s has been a partner for a very long time, which is expensive,” he said in June. “It also got to the point where McDonald’s was difficult to manage. McDonald’s viewed itself as owning the food category. This isn’t just a case of the sponsor saying, ‘We’ve decided to move on.'”

Viewership numbers for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio were disappointing.

NBC, which has the broadcast rights through 2032, suffered a ratings dip in Rio when it averaged 25.8 million viewers. The 2012 London Olympics drew an average of 31.1 million viewers.

The split affords other food vendors a chance to partner with the Games, including those with healthier offerings.

But Payne noted that ending the contract early is odd — especially in this case since McDonald’s has been such an important sponsor for so long.

Still, the company has undergone recent changes. A new CEO took over in 2015 and has focused on new features for customers like online ordering and delivery.

McDonald’s first became associated with the Games in 1968, when it delivered hamburgers to athletes competing in the Winter Games in Grenoble, France.

It’s been an official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee since 1976 and has operated restaurants in both the Olympic Park, where competitions take place, and in the Olympic Village, where athletes live, since the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

In 1984, McDonald’s ran a promotion called “When the U.S. Wins, You Win”: Any time an American athlete won a medal, Americans won food. American athletes were very successful that year and the program was extremely popular.

During the Rio Games, McDonald’s opened a dessert kiosk in the Olympic Park and sponsored 100 kids by sending them to the Games’ Opening Ceremony. a

While fast-food might not seem like a popular choice for Olympic-caliber athletes, the McDonald’s locations in the park and village were a big attraction, according to Lewicki.

“Our transactions in the athletes’ village are very significant,” he said ahead of Rio. “They look forward to us being there. Quite honestly, a lot of them it gives them a taste of home.”

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Olympics opening ceremony ratings slip for NBC

The Winter Olympics kicked off from Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Friday night and NBC saw just a slight drop in TV ratings from four years ago.

The primetime opening ceremony hosted by Mike Tirico and Katie Couric brought in a 16.9 overnight rating, according to the network. That’s a dip of about 8.6 percent from the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, which brought in a 18.5 rating.

All in all, a solid viewership for the network considering the influx of competition for eyeballs and the changing landscape of TV over the last four years. Not to mention, overnights don’t measure streaming numbers and Nielsen ratings only measure American viewership, not a worldwide audience.

The number was the highest Friday primetime overnight rating on any network since the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Nielsen takes the percentage of households watching in 56 US markets and comes up with an overnight average — which means that 16.9 percent of households in these markets tuned into the opening ceremony on Friday night.

Overnights for Pyeongchang also topped the opening ceremony for the 2016 Rio Summer games, which brought in a 16.5 and were the lowest overnight rating for a summer Olympics opening ceremony since 1992.

The overnight ratings also unsurprisingly nearly tripled the combined total of its competitors ABC, CBS and Fox.

NBC’s broadcast peaked around 9-9:15 p.m. ET with a 18.6 rating. This was when Team USA entered the stadium during the Parade of Nations.

The top five markets that tuned into the games were all west of the Mississippi: Salt Lake City, Denver, San Diego, Seattle and Sacramento.

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South Korean leader welcomes North Korean delegation to presidential palace

In an historic first, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed senior North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong, to Seoul’s presidential palace for a lunch meeting Saturday. The meeting is the most signifi…

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