Now NBC Execs Are Just Trolling: Claim They Regret Not Tape Delaying More Of The Olympics

from the are-they-serious? dept

By far, the biggest complaint heard about Olympics coverage by NBC in the US was about just how stupidly annoying the tape delay was. The excuses they gave didn’t make any sense, but NBC still insists that it was the right thing to do. Hell, they’re now arguing that perhaps they should have done even more tape delay, because the ratings were so good.

Though NBC drew criticism for not airing more of the games live, showcasing taped events in prime time “undeniably” helped ratings, NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said. He said he wondered if NBC should have tape-delayed more events, such as the U.S. men’s gold-medal basketball game and the men’s tennis finals between Andy Murray and Roger Federer, which were live.

“It’s undeniable we hurt our ratings by doing that,” Mr. Lazarus said in a phone interview. “We have to balance what we’re trying to do for viewers across the country and our business model.”

Of course, all of that assumes something that isn’t necessarily true: that the high ratings were due to the tape delays. One could just as easily claim that if they hadn’t tape delayed key events, that they would have received even more viewers. There’s no reason that they couldn’t both display stuff live and then rebroadcast the key events in prime time, and satisfy both audiences. But, that kind of thinking doesn’t work inside NBC Universal, where the default mindset seems to be “gee, how can we ‘exclude’ people?”

Either way, the fact that they now regret not tape delaying more content shows the de facto position of NBC Universal — and it’s not about how to best serve their users.

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Comments on “Now NBC Execs Are Just Trolling: Claim They Regret Not Tape Delaying More Of The Olympics”

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61 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

This article makes the case that the incredibly small but vocal percentage of people on Twitter complaining about NBC’s tape delays made it seem like it was “the biggest complaint”, when in reality, their ratings were higher than expected.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/on-twitter-nbc-failed-in-prime-time-it-won/2012/08/03/689247c2-dd7b-11e1-af1d-753c613ff6d8_print.html

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Something is very wrong with this kind of thinking

“We have to balance what we’re trying to do for viewers across the country and our business model.”

This is blatantly saying that properly serving the viewers is in opposition to their business model. That seems to indicate that there’s something deeply wrong with their business model.

I would bash NBC for this attitude, but it’s so prevalent in the entertainment industry that it feels wrong to single them out for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Something is very wrong with this kind of thinking

Look at it this way: Their business model is geared towards serving their customers– the group of people that directly pays them money. This group, however, are not the viewers, but the advertisers.

Clearly NBC is trying to maximize their advertiser rates.

One starts to wonder where are the limits to this type of behaviour. Try to imagine NBC Universal getting the rights to certain major US sports events and applying these techniques.

Simon says:

Thanks... I'm a cable cutter.

Sport coverage in North America was a large part of the reason I found it so easy to become a cable cutter. After living in the UK, I guess I was spoiled by the BBC service, but I just can not stand the TV presentation of sports in the US and Canada. The constant commercial breaks and inane talking heads completely take me out of the event. So often it’s not even breaks for revenue generating advertisers, but just a promo for something else on the channel.

Anonymous Coward says:

“”We have to balance what we’re trying to do for viewers across the country and our business model.” “

Their ‘business model’ depends entirely on government established monopoly privileges (ie: cableco and broadcasting). It’s not a business model, it’s a state sponsored extortion racket, and it needs to end. Abolish anti-competitive laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

” that kind of thinking doesn’t work inside NBC Universal, where the default mindset seems to be “gee, how can we ‘exclude’ people?” “

Umm no, sorry. That isn’t at all what they are saying. They are looking to balance out between providing the coverage live for a small audience, and killing whatever drama may exist, or tape delaying it and letting everyone enjoy it at the same time.

They are also I suspect dealing with the issues of Tivo users who would record the live show during the day, and then watch it at night, skipping the commercials and pretty much wiping out value – PLUS lowering the potential audience for the primetime broadcast and lower those ratings (and future earnings) as well.

If you actually worked in the field, even for a day, you might understand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Something is very wrong with this kind of thinking

The only reason they can get away with it is because the govt. wrongfully passes anti-competitive laws. This form of theft needs to end. Just because they got away with it for the last few decades is no good reason for us to allow them to get away with it for the next few decades. Abolish anti-competitive laws!!!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re:

They are looking to balance out between providing the coverage live for a small audience, and killing whatever drama may exist, or tape delaying it and letting everyone enjoy it at the same time.

Surprise, surprise! The internet is there to spoil the fun. Enjoy together my ass. If they aren’t playing it live I’m streaming via vpn with the money that should go into their pockets if they did a good job. Simple as that.

They are also I suspect dealing with the issues of Tivo users who would record the live show during the day, and then watch it at night, skipping the commercials and pretty much wiping out value – PLUS lowering the potential audience for the primetime broadcast and lower those ratings (and future earnings) as well.

And many of those users went for unlawful streams and pirate sources (or vpns to check bbc). Mission completely and utterly failed.

If you actually worked in the field, even for a day, you might understand.

If any of us worked in the field we’d probably need mental care like all those idiots seem to need. Oh, you do understand eh?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I think we all understand what they were saying. What we are saying is that the networks are clinging to an old and outdated business model based on monopolies.

What do you think would have happened if two networks were both allowed to cover the Olympics? Would tape delays and windowed releases still have been the ‘best’ option?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

” and then watch it at night, skipping the commercials and pretty much wiping out value”

Commercials are not valuable to me. Also, the role of government should not be to allow companies to exploit monopoly privileges at consumer expense by forcing consumers to pay high prices to watch nothing but commercials (which is all television is now) and then to grant monopoly privileges on those events for so long that future generations will effectively never get to see these past events and have a record of them. The role of government should not be to add corporate value at consumer expense. If we had competition, like we should if we had a well behaved government that doesn’t pass so many oppressive laws in exchange for campaign contributions and revolving door favors, we wouldn’t have this problem of paying insanely high prices to watch mostly commercials. These corporations have a responsibility not to abuse their wrongfully granted monopoly privileges and they are not doing so. Instead, their sole interest is to exploit these monopoly privileges for all they can, at public expense, with no regard for the fact that these privileges shouldn’t be granted to maximize profits but to serve a public interest.

The government has a responsibility to regulate these corporations in the public interest and they are not doing so. The plutocracy needs to end. Abolish anti-competitive laws. Abolish govt. established broadcasting and cableco monopolies. Abolish IP.

“If you actually worked in the field”

IOW, you’re a shill.

“you might understand.”

The fallacy that one needs to work in the field to understand. Oh, I understand perfectly well. You’re a shill and you want to continue to benefit from monopoly privileges. Abolish anti-competitive laws. Bet you won’t make it for a day because the competition will offer better services at a cheaper price. You can’t compete in a free market, you need the govt. to hold your hand you poor baby. NO MORE!!!! Adapt or die.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re:

They are looking to balance out between providing the coverage live for a small audience, and killing whatever drama may exist

So covering it live kills the drama of it? Huh?

They are also I suspect dealing with the issues of Tivo users who would record the live show during the day, and then watch it at night, skipping the commercials and pretty much wiping out value – PLUS lowering the potential audience for the primetime broadcast and lower those ratings (and future earnings) as well.

Correct. In other words, the business model is in opposition to the needs of the viewers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Also, for a great many folks who don’t go further than their TVs for Olympic coverage, there were no other options in the States besides NBC and whatever they decided to show, how and when. Of course NBC’s going to say they succeeded – TV viewers had no other alternative. Had there been legit alternatives I’m sure they’d be singing a different tune.

It wasn’t just tape delays that were complained about, though. NBC did some real hatchet jobs on coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies as well as other lapses of judgement where the best US viewer experience was concerned.

Robert P (profile) says:

I think you used the wrong word.

When you said “gee, how can we ‘exclude’ people?” I think what they’re actually thinking is “gee, how can we ‘monetize’ people?” They don’t want to exclude anyone (rather the opposite) they just want to find the way to make the most money per viewer as possible. Finding better/more convenient ways for viewers to consume content is not really part of their mindset, unfortunately.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

It is all about money and it really is absurd. In Denmark we had 2 “companies” split the coverage rights between them and using a total of 5 different channels for the coverage. Do I have to say that they never covered the same events during the olympic period? The clever thing for the olympics would be to sell off the events in smaller packages so exclusivity can be avoided.

In terms of the taping, I can see the argument for it since TV-networks are all about maximizing viewership and rating and if they can do that by tapedalaying, well, why not?
Not everyone will rise early to watch live olympic events and anyone not being up at the time of the live-event would end up being wasted potential commercial showing.

The more relevant question would be: Does it change anything if they both covered it live and tape-delayed it? It appears NBC is shouting yes, shut up, but is that point validated by data?

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re:

No, but they are quite possibly correct. So long as the number of people who A) were at work during the day, B) would watch if they were home, and C) don’t know how to/couldn’t be arsed to/forgot to DVR anything, was larger than the number of people chased to other outlets by the time shift, they made the correct choice and did increase ratings.

Were they right? Beats me. My magic 8-ball broke a while back.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

So they’re trying to balance showing the Olympics as a sports competition by showing it live for a small audience or tape delaying it to turn it into some kind of ‘drama’ show. And you’re defending their choice to go with the latter?

Tape delays don’t let everyone enjoy it at the same time by the way. You’re assuming it’s still enjoyable for everyone after they know the results AND that prime time works better for everyone. Neither are universally true.

They’re dealing with lawful consumers using lawful devices to lawfully time-shift the live shows? The horror of having to deal with all that legal competition. Better to cut off access to live shows and remove the ability to time shift so you don’t have to stack your preferences up against the consumers and lose. Ironically you can fix this problem easily with internet streaming since you can still force people to watch ads there even if they choose to load a recorded version of a live stream that’s 12 hours old.

If you actually work in the field repeat this mantra to yourself ten times at the start of each day:
“It’s 2012, I need to stop thinking like it’s 1982. 30 years ago is over and it’s never coming back.”

slopoke says:

Re:

Agree. What bothered me most wasn’t the delay itself (I can only watch during prime time anyway) but the way they covered the events. Botched opening and closing ceremonies is just the start. From my point of view they didn’t actually cover the “Olympics” at all. What they covered was swimming, diving, track and little girls gymnastics. I got so tired of the Michael Phelps channel that by the middle of the first week I was no longer watching at all. every time that something newsworthy happened (fencing, shot put, Judokas etc.) it was an event that I couldn’t see.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re:

I often surprised at how many people don’t get this point. The current Olympic Games have no connection with the original Olympic Games except that they share the name and they both involve sporting events. The purpose and even the social meaning were totally different.

Even the sporting events were only one part of the original Olympics, and of no greater importance than the other parts.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re:

The, at best, that’s a dramatic oversimplification of the truth. My wife, who is an avid Olympics fan, pays no attention to online happenings in general, let alone Twitter specifically. And yet, the delay irritated her tremendously. She watched them nonetheless, but would have enjoyed them much more if they had been live.

Halfway through, I told her that I could set her up to watch them in real time through the internet, and she was excited about that. For all future games, that’s how she’ll be following them, not through NBC.

calicojones (profile) says:

I may be crazy, but I don’t consider the Olympics to be a simple “sporting event”, and that’s how it feels like NBC treated it. It’s an event of world-wide importance, and it should be treated as such.

Yes, I know they paid a lot to have the “privilege” of broadcasting(which is a problem in itself). I have no issue with them trying to make a buck. Just don’t package it. In this day and age, if you sign on to broadcast it, you need to broadcast it all as it happens. If you want to create a “best of” show for your primetime audience, great. Just don’t withhold coverage to boost it.

I loved the online stuff, especially since a lot of them didn’t have the idiotic, babbling commentators. You got to enjoy the events naturally, and I would love for coverage of other sporting events to follow suit. How great would it be to be able to turn off the audio track for the commentators on a football game and instead enjoy the game with the ambient sounds? The one thing that irritated me was that they put the results in the description of the event. Seriously not cool.

To put all of this in perspective, take any other event and put it in place of the Olympics and see if the way NBC handled it makes sense.

“Tune in tonight to watch the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in Superbowl XLVI with a thrilling last minute touchdown!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Tune in tonight to see if the fearless US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin succeed in being the first humans to land on the moon!!!!!!!!!!!”*

*While every newspaper in the world has the headline “Fearless US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin succeed in being the first humans to land on the moon!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Let me get this straight

For months before the Games began I read a lot of comments regarding those games and it seems to have been pretty much an over feel of negativity in this community.
Things such as they should eliminate the Games or boycott the games and so on.
So the distinct impression that I got out all of that was no one really cared.At all.

So now most everyone seems to be jumping all over NBC for tape delaying the coverage of the games that nobody cared about watching. That about it?

Wow…that’s freakin funny!
You gotta love this place!

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Let 'em die

I watched live from the US. The BBC did an excellent job.

If NBC did one thing right, it was to make Joe Sixpack aware of proxies. Now there are a ton more people out there that are suddenly aware that they can get around geolocking by using a proxy server. Expect the majors to try and legislate/incriminate that activity in the future as they realize that people who aren’t being serviced by them can be serviced by others using a proxy.

People are now using Netflix through proxies to grab material not released in their own country and proxies are also allowing folks to access ITunes and Amazon to grab stuff not being provided to them because of major stupidity. They are so willing to screw the customer and leave money sitting on the table, but then when technology or a competitor who has a better business sense then they do show up and break their monopoly, they get all bent out of shape.

Declan OReilly says:

The right way to do it

Never bothered with the olympics for all the reasons mentioned up thread. I dont expect NBC or any of the other networks to do anything beyond satisfying the investors.

The olympics from a business point of view is legalized extortion, with the only saving grace being the actual athletics, it flows from the top down and NBC is only one of the minor minions.

You turned on the TV, you rewarded that assumption of the network. Had NBC taken a bath in the ratings, changes would have been made for the next event, regardless of the network.

So big media screwed us, surprise surprise.

Declan

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re:

NBC live-streamed more events than ever online for free, and you’re complaining about what they did on television?

Only if you had a cable TV or satellite subscription (I do not,) and the cable company was able to correctly configure the third-party authentication for you to access the streams. I used a proxy, my sister used a friend’s userid and password to access the NBC site. I think I got the better deal.

I had a cable internet subscription, but when I used the access credentials for that to attempt to access the stream, I was told I needed to be a cable TV subscriber in order to access the site.

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