(Un)Olympic Spirit

This is the response from Vivian Schiller, Chief Digital Officer for NBC to #NBCFail, a Twitter topic started by frustrated viewers of tape delayed Olympic events.

It’s 2012 and we are living in a world where consumers expect and demand live coverage of any newsworthy event. Everything from presidential speeches to awards shows to major sporting events are live blogged and live-tweeted by thousands of people around the world. Most recently, the Euro 2012 championship was aired live around the world and generated huge social conversation on Twitter. The second screen phenomenon is here and robust.

Fast forward a couple of months to the London 2012 Olympics. In keeping with tradition, NBC refuses to air events live and goes with tape delayed broadcasts. Not only is this infuriating for viewers, those of us who live in social media will typically see the results tweeted long before we’ll get a chance to watch them on TV. Not only that, we need to deal with an endless array of commercials that we can’t skip through without watching at an even later date.

Finally, NBC programming decided to make the Olympics one single continuous TV event, which makes each instance a 9 hour episode that eats up enormous amounts of time and DVR space. In this day and age, why can’t we pick the events we want to watch on demand and simply watch them and not the ones we’re not interested in?

The reason is simple. NBC is holding on to an antiquated business model where they believe they know what’s best for the consumer. Rather than ceding programming control to the people who consumer their content, they are perpetuating a decades old model where they dictate what we watch and when we watch. Contrast this with the World Cup which is arguably as big a global event that is shown without tape delay and frequently without commercials during critical moments.

Olympic events are about excitement and often determined by 1/100th of a second. But that excitement goes away when the race you want to watch is delayed by hours. If NBC was smart, it would learn to accept that the world is moving faster than they want — and the smart money will bet on where consumers want to go.

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