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NBC Olympic broadcast earns both big complaints, big ratings

Viewers take to social media to blast NBC's tape-delayed prime-time Olympic broadcasts, but ratings show many are watching.
by Don Mecoy Published: August 1, 2012

So #NBCfail is a thing on Twitter now.

The network's tape-delayed broadcasts of the most popular Olympic events have aggravated a significant number of people, particularly those accustomed to receiving instant results via social media, the Internet and every other broadcast channel.

“The real #nbcfail lesson is that media companies don't superserve the public; they hold viewers/readers/users prisoner,” journalist and blogger Jeff Jarvis tweeted.

NBC is using an old — but not yet outdated — business model in its broadcast strategy. The network paid more than $1 billion for exclusive broadcast rights, and must sell a lot of expensive advertising to try to recoup that investment. Advertisers will pay top dollar only for prime-time spots, and expect the best available content to attract viewers.

In today's brave new media world, that old-school method still works. TV ratings on the first few nights of Olympic coverage were strong, outpacing those of the Beijing games of 2008, when fewer people had access to instant results.

NBC hasn't helped itself on the public relations front, with one network executive referring to those lodging complaints as “whiners.”

Twitter, which is partnering with NBC in its Olympic efforts, suspended the account one of NBC's main critics with a transparently bogus claim that he violated the site's rules by posting private information about a network executive (it was the exec's public corporate email address). The critic's account was restored on Tuesday.

The Peacock network spoiled its own drama Monday night by teasing a “Today” show appearance by gold-medal swimmer Missy Franklin minutes before NBC showed her tape-delayed performance that earned her that medal.

Other than too much studio-based chat, I've enjoyed the prime-time coverage. I watched the U.S. men swim to silver in the freestyle relay even though I already knew the result.

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by Don Mecoy
Business Editor
Business Editor Don Mecoy has covered business news for more than a decade after earlier working on The Oklahoman's city, state and metro news desks, including a stint as city editor. He has won state and regional journalism awards for business,...
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