A Tale Of Two TV Networks
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was
the season of Light, it was the season of Darknenss…”
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I got to thinking about this opening line from the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities as I was looking at the disparity of live broadcast coverage of the London Olympic Games. Chances are pretty good that you are one of over 32 million Americans who has tuned into the Sumer Olympics on NBC. Chances are also pretty good that you may have been one of the millions of NBC viewers using #NBCFAIL because of a severe time delay of coverage here in the U.S.
NBC and the BBC have taken two very different approaches to live coverage of London Olympics. And to be sure, social media has had an impact on both of their decisions, proving without a doubt the London Olympics are truly the fist “Social Media Olympics.” (If you doubt that, just look at how the IOC Rule 40 is cracking down on what Olympic athletes put on social media). As media consumers, we have all become accustomed to real-time as a standard feature, especially since the conversation economy is not time-shifted or tape-delayed.
NBC is airing over 5,000 hours of Olympic coverage compared to the BBC, which is only airing 2,500 hours of coverage. While the gold medal for overall tonnage goes to NBC, they don’t even make the podium from a quality score perspective. On the other hand, the BBC wins the gold medal for having 24 live feeds of Olympic events. As mentioned, NBC is getting creamed across social media for their lack of live viewing options. Over 2 billion people across the globe watched live, as Usain Bolt won the gold medal and kept his title as the fastest man on planet Earth. But if you were watching from the U.S., you had to wait until prime time to watch that event. The same goes for watching Gabby Douglas or Michael Phelps win their events – all were on tape delay in the U.S. And this is why #NBCFAIL has really exploded.
The approach that the BBC took was to air as much live coverage to give their audience a real-time experience of the games as it they happen – no matter what device they were viewing (e.g., TV, smartphone, tablet, desktop). To me, it sounds like they understand the customer and what it takes to deliver the best experience.
NBC was focused on a revenue metric vs. a customer experience. And they have achieved their goal, viewership is up and they are charging top dollar for prime-time media pods. But forcing people in the U.S. to wait and watch events in prime time is bad enough but not allowing live coverage via their Olympic app or on a tablet just makes the network look old school and certainly not understanding (or caring) about the consumer experience. I, for one, believe they could have found a way to balance their prime time and connected device live coverage strategy.
We live in an environment of real-time and the conversation economy and that translates into national or global events like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. Understanding consumer behavior and what they want is paramount to delivering a great experience. Businesses need to make money to survive and I understand NBC’s rationale to cover their Olympic investment. But I believe they could have maximized their investment by having more real-time coverage on multiple platforms, especially since the Olympics are such a strong audience draw. Trying to control a global event is like trying to control the wind, and it’s just not possible.