Day 6 – #NBCfail? It’s Your Fault

1 Aug

“@nbcsports Thanks for the breaking news email about the gymnastics results…8 hours before YOU broadcasted it on TV. COME ON! #NBCFAIL”

“Gosh I hope the women’s gymnasts win the gold medal in team competition tonight, like they did this afternoon #NBCfail”

Yes, within a matter of seconds NBC got slammed both for letting slip that US women had won a gold medal in gymnastics and for acting during the prime-time broadcast like no one would know. Talk about a no-win situation.

But no one seems to understand that the real problem isn’t the network. It’s everyone who plops down on the couch and turns on NBC in prime time. Or, more to the point, it’s about the money.

This was the year that NBC was going to let viewers have it their way. If you wanted to see the sports live it was all there online, in real-time without the pre-packaged stories or even announcers in many cases. Or, if you like the prime-time approach, then you could ignore it all until you got home and were all set with your remote and a bag of popcorn.

“Like a savvy butcher, the network finally learned to use all parts of the pig and will air 5,535 total TV/online hours — up from 170 hours for the 1996 Atlanta Games,” USA Today said before the games started.

Welcome to the world of NBC Sports programmers.

The flaw in that plan was that it failed to account for the massive digital mess that covers us throughout the day. Consider, for example, what happened on Tuesday when the USA women’s gymnastics team won its first team gold medal since 1996.

Just before 2 p.m. anyone signed up for news alerts from NBC learned about the victory by email or text message. What else would you expect from a world-class news organization?

Yet in offices, carpool lanes, and at Starbucks around the country, you heard people complaining that they didn’t want to know the results before prime time. I heard a shouting match break out between people at my daughter’s soccer practice. One woman was discussing the win, while another nearby had fastidiously avoided going online and was wanting to see the drama unfold on TV.

At the root of the battle is a simple formula. No matter how much NBC pumps up its digital coverage and daytime broadcasts, prime time advertising still rules the roost. And the figures released Tuesday reinforce the point.

NBC will set a record for online ad revenue during the Olympics, $60 million so far, according to Investor’s Business Daily. That’s already three times the digital advertising total from all of the 2008 Olympics in Bejing.

But that’s a pittance compared to the $1 billion the network is projected to make from broadcast ad revenues, and the lion’s share of those come from the evening show. Now before you roll your eyes at the size of the revenue, keep in mind that NBC spent $1.18 billion for the rights to these games.

From NBC’s perspective, pumping up digital is fine, but in the end it’s all about the broadcast. And the facts seem to support the logic.

Saturday was arguably the first big story moment, the 400M Individual Medley race where Ryan Lochte won gold and Michael Phelps came in fourth. NBC said more than 943,000 video streams were running during the race. It was not shown live on any of NBC’s TV networks. But more than five hours later NBC scored a 24 share with its prime-time coverage. Millions and millions of viewers voted with their remote for the delayed coverage.

“We have believed from the beginning that a multi-platform approach to surrounding consumers with Olympic programming leading to a prime time on NBC would make people want to gather even if they knew the results,” NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said on Tuesday. “We still have a ways to go. But that seems to be playing out quite well.”

So you can blame NBC all you want. But if you watch the Olympics in prime time then I blame you.

About Project TILWO Every day I watch London 2012 Olympic coverage on TV and online then share the lessons I learned, with occasional help from my friends. Edited by Lynn Hess @ Premier Proofing.