NBC Insists Twitter Is Useless Because Not Enough People Tweeted During The Olympics… Which NBC Made Difficult To Watch Online

from the maybe-rethink-your-position dept

People are jumping on a story in the Financial Times, in which NBC Universal’s research chief, Alan Wurtzel totally trashes Twitter for not being particularly important to television viewing. The basic claim about the relationship between Twitter and television may, in fact, be true, but the reasoning that Wurtzel presents for his conclusions makes no sense at all. In fact, it raises questions about what kind of “research” NBC Universal actually does.

NBCU had expected social media to have a dominating effect on viewership for the Games. However, during the 18-day period of coverage, just 19 per cent of Olympic viewers posted about the games on social media, the broadcaster found.

Frankly, that seems somewhat high to me. Part of the issue is that Wurtzel seems to think that everyone watching the Olympics and using social media would or should then express that fact to the public. That’s bizarre. Plenty of people use social media not to speak out directly, but to pay attention to what their friends and family are doing. This is the same sort of debate that internet-native folks have had for years about participants in online communities vs “lurkers.” But lurkers have tremendous value as well, even if they don’t participate. Frankly, a 19% participation rate in an online community is massive. It’s amazing that NBC Universal seems to think this is a bad thing.

“I am saying the emperor wears no clothes. It is what it is. These are the numbers.”

There are three totally empty statements there, none of which have anything to say.

But, you know, something else that might have had a big impact on this? The fact that NBC Universal has a very long history of making it extraordinarily difficult to actually watch the Olympics that people want to see online (you know, at the time when they’re most likely to be connected to social media). Combined with its continued demented decision to make it nearly impossible to watch any of the hot events live and you’ve basically wiped out many of the big reasons why people might be on social media talking about things. The whole thing was constructed around a typical TV “broadcast” mentality. Is it any wonder that it didn’t really resonate with people on social media?

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Companies: comcast, nbc universal, twitter

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Comments on “NBC Insists Twitter Is Useless Because Not Enough People Tweeted During The Olympics… Which NBC Made Difficult To Watch Online”

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Trevor says:


You’d think a network that has a history of low numbers in proportion to a total group would have a better understanding of what 19% really is.

Their BEST rated show only got a 7.4 Nielsen ranking last week.

According to their logic, The Voice should be cancelled because “I am saying the emperor wears no clothes. It is what it is. These are the numbers.”

Poetic Stanziel says:

Re: Re:

Curling is ridiculously popular in Canada. Networks here have expanded curling coverage due to its popularity. Ten years ago there were three broadcast curling competitions ? the Brier, the Tournament of Hearts and the World Championships. Now, there is a top-level curling competition broadcast every other weekend throughout the late fall to early spring.

Blue Sweater (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Give it a try this fall. Most clubs have a grace period of a few weeks to allow new curlers to give it a try without having to join and pay dues.

Honestly it was the only sport I watched during the Olympics and being Canadian I’m sure admitting that has probably broken some law that the Hockey cartel has gotten on the books.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

WOW! The reason we should believe NBC is because …. why? The fact that NBC and other networks routinely send DMCA notices to all kinds of websites preventing tweeting, posting on Facebook, uploading to Youtube and because their DMCA campaign works so well and nobody posts about NBC on websites that they now say that social media is useless?


That’s like a grocery store saying their competitors have a monopoly because their competitors have more stores than they do.


GMacGuffin (profile) says:

Indeed ...

19%? That’s crazy good. I am consistently surprised at how many people I know who do not use Twitter at all. They don’t get it.

Live Tweeting during TV events is great interactive fun. Like baseball games and Archer when it’s first airing. But the Olympics was showing stuff that had already happened. What’s the point of live tweeting about that? That’s like live tweeting to a rerun of an Astros game, or Bewitched. Who freaking cares?

Twitter ain’t Facebook. It’s a more specific group of users and largely about immediacy. So sure it’s important to TV viewing, to the right group, in the right circumstances — like something happening right now for the first time. (I dunno, that NBC guy just set me off.)

Km says:

I’ve watched more live television in the last few years solely because of twitter. This is particularly true with special event programing. The only reason to watch any awards ceremony is to mock it on twitter. I’m kind of baffled at the dismissive attitude toward this shared experience that gets people to willingly subject themselves to advertising.

Keroberos (profile) says:

I think this so-called “research chief” needs to show some actual research. Making a statement that only 19% of viewers posted to social media is bad needs some numbers–and you know, some actual research–to back it up.

What percentage were they expecting (or hoping) would use social media? Where’s the research showing that it would be valid to believe that?

Why do they believe that 19% is a bad number? Do they have research on other events that show that number could be higher?

Honestly, this is an area that any “research” is mostly just vague guessing–to many variables, nothing to compare against, and no ability to repeat any experiments with identical variables.

vegetaman (profile) says:

Of course I didn’t tweet during the olympics. I work for a living! I watched what few highlights they had of curling on in the evening (because I couldn’t get the full games like I wanted), and that was it. It’s your own fucking fault NBC. It’s not like people haven’t been telling you this. I also don’t tweet every time I have a bowel movement or eat a scone, nor every time I watch some mundane television program.

Anonymous Coward says:

I doubt the largest percentage flew to Russia just to watch the games. So what’s left? NBCs idea of getting rich off viewers?

TV has been losing it’s importance if you haven’t noticed. It’s now all cell phone and the internet. Of course if you are blocking shows so the internet can’t see it without an act of congress, guess who isn’t watching your show? Guess who isn’t commenting on the same if not watching it?

The idea that the Olympics now have people running around taping up the makers of bathroom fixtures because they don’t pay the committee is an idea of just how far this idiocy has gone in the direction of everyone must pay. I no longer watch the Olympics as over the long haul of it being ever more difficult to see, just means I lost the connection to it and the desire to see anything about it. So I dang sure am not going to comment about something I don’t care about on Twitter.

Get over yourself. You’ve nothing to puff your chest out about dealing with NBC. Crying in your jello isn’t going to bring in people, it just makes you look spoiled and looking for someone else to blame for your failures.

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