The London Summer Olympics were a huge success for NBC, with record-breaking ratings and the possibility that they might actually turn a profit after the past winter games in Vancouver.
They were sitting pretty, on high daily ratings, spurred on by Michael Phelps’s quest to become the most decorated Olympian of all time and the women’s gymnastics team race to win the gold.
However, NBC’s live-stream of all events garnered the network more criticism than applause from viewers and media outlets, and rightly so.
At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, NBC was slashed for tape-delaying Picabo Street’s ski run to gold, since it would have been shown at 2:30 in the morning. So this time around, NBC attempted to curtail criticism by advertising the online brodacast, to feed appetites for live sports coverage.
NBC heralded this live-stream as an alternative and a way out for any criticisms they anticipated for tape-delaying the more profitable and popular sports at this summer’s Olympic games-for example, swimming, volleyball and gymnastics.
But out of the starting gate, NBC refused to show the opening ceremonies online, citing that viewers would be unable to understand what was going on during the show without their production.
“It was never our intent to live stream the opening ceremony or closing ceremony,” an NBC spokesman told the Los Angeles Times. “They are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide for the large prime-time audiences that gather together to watch them.”
Makes sense. And I guess it also makes sense that NBC didn’t show the opening ceremony online because they wanted to get as high ratings as they possibly could. Isn’t that right, NBC?
Then there was the problem with the shoddy live stream NBC provided. When Usain Bolt bent down, ready to bolt out of the running blocks, viewers experienced the ever-annoying curse of buffering.
Obviously, people were outraged and expressed their anger through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
“Read an entire chapter of Moby Dick in the time it took Bolt to finish the 100M. #Buffering #10SecondBlog #MoreLike10Minutes,” Nathan Becker from New York wrote on his Twitter page.
The fact that NBC tried to quiet the critics with the live-stream is sincerely ironic since the critic’s voices only grew in strength because of the live stream. Those who wanted to watch the Olympics live had to find other sources such as BBC and CTV.
NBC released data showing that their online streaming endeavor was a success, saying that they averaged 8.56 million streams a day, but NBC has yet to release figures of how many of those visitors were unique and returning.
If they had a high amount of unique visitors and a low amount of returning visitors, then the people who came to NBC expecting to see quality streaming didn’t find it. They found another source to meet their needs.
I do applaud NBC for deciding to show the closing ceremony online after the pile of hate mail they received from the #NBCFail on Twitter. This shows that they’re actually listening to their customers and meeting their requests.
Maybe for the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia, NBC will improve on their live streaming and silence the unimpressed. Or maybe those unimpressed will give us more Twitter fodder to laugh at.