Written by Noemi Pollack on August 1, 2012.
It just so happened that the timing of the 2012 London Olympic Games collided with a socially disruptive era, one that has so changed from the 2008 Beijing games era, that different considerations for organizing the games should have been in place. Sure, its publics probably range through four or five generations and all absorb their media from different platforms. But surely the digital natives (born since 1994) as well as GenY and GenX , want their news in real time, as in NOW! What percentage of them are Olympic enthusiasts? I would venture to guess the percentage is large enough to get noticed and addressed.
Considering that the London Games are the first in this mobile era, with people carrying around their tablets and smart phones that have access to Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites that instantly deliver news, the impatience of viewers with NBC’s tape delay coverage has been amplified. Tape-delays are pretty much evergreen for Olympics, but what worked four years ago, no longer does now.
The fact is that the Olympics is taking place across social media as much as it is in East London.
With an estimated 4.95 million shares, the 2012 Olympic opening ceremonies became the biggest social sharing activity on record for a sports or entertainment event.
So with their own hashtag on Twitter (hash)nbcfail, filled with a lot of crying, snarking and humor, complaints, commentary and yes, praises, these became amplified throughout the world. But as with all else, it is the complaints that ring the loudest. First they focused on NBC’s decision to tape delay the opening ceremony; then about the lack of bandwidth available at the games; more recently it is about airing the marquee swimming event won by American Ryan Lochte on tape delay in prime time. One of those complainers, in fact, was CNN’s Piers Morgan: he tweeted his disdain Friday for NBC’s decision not to make the opening ceremony available live.
The hurried last minute decision taken by NBC to stream the events live online, did not mollify the uproar. Too late… for it should have been considered in the plans before the opening.
It is clear that NBC, as a for-profit major corporation, considered the business end of this first. Can’t really fault them. The price for exclusive coverage was beyond steep and prime time equals more viewers and that’s where the network makes the bulk of its advertising revenue.
But not being inclusive of the needs of the digital natives and the next two generations, also carries a price – the potential loss of loyalty from a couple of generations, not just for the network, but for its advertisers, as well.
No one can argue with the ratings: 40 million viewers for the opening ceremony, the most ever for one of those Olympic events. Still, the good news is that NBC heard those critics and is doing something in response. As an example, the network advertised its live streaming of Sunday’s cycling race on the primetime broadcast.
It’s just that one cannot hold on to old media strategies in a new media world.