The biggest Olympic story of the weekend in United States didn’t have to do with competition. The fuss was about NBC not showing prime events live on any of their TV networks.
The United States was one of the only countries in the world that didn’t show the Opening Ceremony on Friday. The ceremony began at 9 pm London time, which is 4 pm eastern time. NBC showed the tape delayed ceremony at 8 pm eastern, which drew some criticism.
Then there was the moment on Saturday afternoon when people started to realize that NBC wasn’t going to show the men’s 400 meter individual medley. This event was promoted heavily and was going to be the first event where Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte competed against each other. The 400 IM was at 7:30 pm London time and NBC elected to show the race in their primetime coverage.
Twitter and the social media world blew up in anger about NBC showing swimming events on tape delay hours after the races took place. It’s a fair complaint in the 21st century, but NBC can get away with tape delay for a few more Olympics.
NBC must get credit for the over 5,500 hours of competition they are showing on their platforms. NBC, NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, Bravo, CNBC and Telemundo (spanish) are part of the USA Olympic coverage. There is also a channel dedicated to basketball and another for soccer. In addition, every event is shown live and on-demand on nbcolympics.com. NBC has spent over a billion dollars for the broadcasting rights of the 2012 Olympics.
With events online, NBC has the right to show what they want in primetime when the price for advertisements and commercials are higher. NBC’s primetime target audience is an older generation that aren’t addicted to Twitter and can stay off the internet long enough to not have the Olympic results spoiled. This target audience is also interested about the unlikely journeys of Olympic athletes. That’s why John McEnroe, Ryan Seacrest and others have been brought in to interview American athletes about their background story.
With the amount of money spent, NBC’s decision can be justified for now.
However, NBC might need to change their way as Twitter gets even more popular. As the young generation becomes older and becomes NBC’s new “target audience”, taped delay events won’t cut it. The beauty of Twitter is getting news instantly and NBC (or whoever owns future Olympic rights) will soon have to show swimming, gymnastics and track & field live.
The “Peacock Network” owns the Olympic rights through 2020. After that other networks may challenge NBC and promising live events could be a key part of an Olympic TV package.