Why NBC Is Allowed to Ruin the Olympics
NBC, and even Ryan Seacrest, has become viewers' best friend and worst enemy as the broadcaster brings this summers Olympics to televisions throughout the U.S. and faces criticism about its programming decisions.
With the responsibility of airing nearly 4,000 hours of Olympic programming throughout the summer games, it's fair to say nobody expected NBC's coverage to be perfect. However, the broadcaster has made negative headlines for not airing some of the biggest events live, instead saving them until primetime. The network even spoiled the outcome of teen swimmer Missy Franklin's gold medal-winning race in a promo that ran before it meant to, infuriating millions of viewers.
It may not seem like a smart idea to delay airing events live in the age of Twitter and online news, and it's just kind of weird to hear the local newscaster say "spoiler alert" before going through the results of the Games. Airing certain events sometimes hours after they happen and leaving viewers to attempt to avoid news about results has led to outrage, thousands of nasty letters and millions of Twitter posts with the hashtag #NBCfail.
Still, despite all the negative press NBC's handling of airing the Games has generated, the network doesn't care, and honestly, it shouldn't.
"As programmers, we are charged to manage the business. And this is a business. It's not everyone's inalienable right to get whatever they want," said NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus to Sports Business Daily. "We are charged with making smart decisions for our company, for our shareholders and to present the product the way we believe is best."
Nobody wants to hear this, but he's right. NBC paid $1.2 billion for the right to air the London Games and originally expected to take a $100 million loss over the course of the 17-day event. However, record-breaking ratings are raising expectations and the network could now actually break even. The bottom line is: tape-delaying events for primetime is working, as more than 35 million people continue to tune in at peak hours. This shows that even if many viewers already know the outcome, they still want to see how it happened.
Ratings for the tape-delayed events in primetime would be far lower if NBC chose to air them live. Many critics have countered by saying the network could just re-air the events later for those who may have missed them, but that would not be nearly as beneficial. Once NBC shows an event on its air, other networks like ESPN, ABC, FOX and local affiliates have the right to air highlights, making a primetime rerun of an event nearly useless.
NBC's strategy for the Olympics isn't just about making money. The network is attempting to use this summer's Games as a jump-start for several other parts of its business. The broadcaster's original primetime programming lineup finished the last television season with some of its poorest ratings ever and the Olympics is a tremendous opportunity to advertise for what's coming in the fall to generate interest. In addition, the company's NBC Sports Network channel is getting more exposure than ever before, as the young station looks to build a following and woo some viewers away from ESPN.
Viewers can yell and kick and scream about not being able to watch events live, and not showing games live certainly is an archaic idea in a society that lives on fast food, Twitter and high-speed Internet. Waiting is no longer part of the social vocabulary and NBC is telling everyone that they have to.
People are frustrated that NBC is using the Olympics, an event where all differences are put aside and pride and country come first, as a way to squeeze out every last dime that it can. But this isn't about NBC trying to "ruin your Olympics" -- the company hasn't made that its goal. However, it's not going out of the way to give people everything they want either.
This is about NBCUniversal seizing an opportunity to rebuild its broadcast station, launch its sports network and build its properties. This is a business doing what it has to so it can turn a $1.2 billion investment into something other than a $100 million loss, all Twitter hashtags, nasty blog posts and spoiler alerts be damned!
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Categories: Media Mind