Comcast/NBC Ignores Lessons From The Cord Cutting Age, Buries Olympics Under An Ocean Of Annoying Advertising

from the you-will-like-what-we-say-you'll-like dept

It’s becoming abundantly clear that the lessons of the cord cutting age are not sinking in at Comcast/NBC Universal headquarters. Last Friday night, NBC aired the Olympic opening ceremonies, but spent the weekend being mercilessly ridiculed on social media for a broadcast that was not only showy and hollow, but absolutely slathered with not just ads — but the same ads shown over and over again. Viewers, many of whom were already annoyed by NBC’s refusal to show the opening ceremonies live, made their displeasure abundantly clear:

In 2011, Comcast agreed to pay $4.4 billion for exclusive US broadcast rights to air the Olympics through 2020. It shelled out another $7.75 billion for the rights for the games until 2032. To begin recouping the costs of this deal, Comcast/NBC was quick to brag about how it nabbed $1.2 billion in national advertising in the games. But lost in this conversation, as usual, was what paying customers actually wanted. What consumers repeatedly told NBC they wanted was less blathering, more live events, and a live broadcast of the opening ceremonies. They got none of those things.

What they got was a one-hour tape delay so NBC could try and shovel as many advertisements at consumers as possible (under the guise of needing to add “context”), and some incoherent rambling from hosts who often went hysterically out of their way to avoid addressing any of the volatile realities surrounding the games in Rio. Previously, NBC execs tried to justify this tone-deafness with all manner of excuses, ranging from absurd to relatively insulting:

The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they?re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It?s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.

As the complaints bubbled over among the viewing public, NBC started playing defense, telling industry news outlets like Ad Week that the Rio games ad load is “very similar” to the 2010 London Olympics; it’s the public perception that’s to blame:

“As we did for London, we inserted a few more commercials earlier in the show so that we can afford time later in the show to present as much of the ceremony as we can, including every single country in the Parade of Nations,” said an NBC Sports spokesperson. “Given that the commercial load was very similar to London, we believe that consumption habits, such as binge-watching and ‘marathoning,’ have changed perceptions among the viewing audience regarding commercials.”

That’s NBC admitting that modern consumers are finding over-advertising and other legacy cable habits more annoying than ever. Something NBC should have already known as consumers slowly but surely either cut the cable cord or trim back on their viewing packages because the game has changed. And what did NBC do armed with this information? It doubled down on being annoying. The result was a 30+% decline in the 18-49 demographic, with people trying harder than ever to explore Olympics streaming alternatives (or even use a VPN to watch live international streams if necessary).

This isn’t just inflexibility and tone-deafness, it’s almost a celebration of them. And it’s just one more example of how the traditional cable and broadcast sector isn’t just ready for real disruption, it’s absolutely begging for it.

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Companies: nbc universal

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Comments on “Comcast/NBC Ignores Lessons From The Cord Cutting Age, Buries Olympics Under An Ocean Of Annoying Advertising”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: So much wasted effort

true enough, but SWMBO and i had hopes the idea of getting a lot of coverage through the app would be a workable compromise…
as it is, VERY glad to have that alternative, as we have been skipping around and watchign a lot of various sports we wouldn’t otherwise watch…
hardly watching the olympic satellite channels at all…
she kept on top of when most of the gymnastics and swimming stuff was going on that she wanted to watch live, which then pretty much obviated the main coverage on the broadcast channels…
now, FAR from perfect in several ways: the aforementioned repetition of ads (something which appears especially prevalent in online programming), weird ‘blackouts’, and ‘coverage will resume shortly’ screens for no apparent reason, as well as some other annoyances…
but, overall, having the ability to pick and choose which events we want to watch, is how freaking tee vee should be…
get this, we even watched events where ‘murikans weren’t even competing ! ! !
(course, been a number of highly favored ‘murikan teams and individuals dropping like, um, DDT’ed mosquitoes… bazika!)

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Interesting anecdote

My home town newspaper’s website includes a vibrant, well-used comment section. Almost no story goes by without at least a handful of comments.

I noticed that none of the Olympics stories that I’ve seen have attracted comments, though. Looking through all the stories they’ve run since the start (about 15), there has been a grand total one 1 comment — and that one was someone scolding people for being insufficiently supportive of the Olympics.

It may not mean anything in the big picture, but I’m getting the impression that lots of people simply couldn’t care less.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s far from perfect, but it’s pretty good. I suspect it will be better at the next Olympics, and even better at the one after that.

Unless a non-broadcaster buys exclusive rights. Apple, for instance, could cut a check for exclusive rights and make it available only over Apple TV or to iOS devices. Actually, Apple probably wouldn’t do that, but I could see Verizon trying to do something like that. The rights cost something like $5 billion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Public Broadcasters

And here I’m bitching about one sponsor clip show sometimes between coverage segments every couple of hours from my public broadcasters.

Anyway, maybe Americans want to start financing the public broadcaster(s) better, so they can buy the transmission rights and show them (mostly) ad free. Most of the rest of the civilised world seems to be happy with a well-funded public broadcasting system. (Even though a public broadcaster obviously has its own problems, but in comparison they seem bearable.)

Anonymous Coward says:

IOC Commitee

Dear Techdirt,

It has come to our attention that you are not an official sponsor of the Olympics ™(c). As such you are strictly forbidden to use the word Olympics and/or the letter ‘o’ (both lower and upper case). We hereby demand that you remove the letter ‘o’ from your website immediately. Thank you for your prompt compliance to this pressing matter. We, just as you do, take the protection of our IP seriously.



PS. Just for future reference, we are attempting to also copyright and trademark the letters ‘i’ and ‘c’ for the next Olympics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: IOC Commitee

You know, I’ve read so many stories about the Olympics heavy handed trademark protection moves yet sites like Reddit ( suffer no consequences for use of the rings, the word “Olympics” and the reposting of lots of Olympics content. Makes me wonder if all the threats are just bluster.

trollificus (profile) says:

Re: Re: IOC Commitee

Threats, bluster…it allows them to selectively enforce their policies. People who play nice probably won’t have a problem. Individuals, websites and bloggers who are critical, who point out what a social, ecological and economic disaster this decadent bread-and-circuses shitshow has become…THEY might find themselves on the bad end of the expressed consequences.

The wealthy and powerful benefit, as in so many big-money endeavors, governmental and otherwise. But the sanctimonious drivel under which this corruption festers, the soaring invocations of “the aspiring human body and spirit” and the “bringing together of all nations under the banner of noble athletic competition”, that’s what really makes this particular in-your-face reverse Robin Hood act so unbearably nauseating. There’s hypocrisy, there’s mega-hypocrisy, and there’s hyper-reinforced industrial-strength hypocrisy. And then there’s the Olympics.

Ugh. “support the Olympics”? I’d rather support some corrupt sport that basically enslaves the athletes, making them work for nothing and casting them aside when they become useless for revenue generation…something like NCAA football, maybe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Somewhere online is the complete list of medals anyway, since winners and losers have already been decided in most of the events like the “jumping really high over a stick” “beat a horse until it stamps its feet that looks a bit like dancing – teehee” and “pretending to be cavemen throwing a spear at a dinosaur” (yes i know….)

Nurlip (profile) says:

Maybe its just me but I don’t really care for the ceremonies at all. After an event ends, if NBC doesn’t cut to another event immediately, I usually change the channel or turn off the TV rather than watch the exact same medal ceremony AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN. Once i know who won, why do i need to see them being given a medal? the after event interview is really all i need to hear and for events like swimming, their reaction in the pool is enough for me. One medal ceremony is just like the next so they are a waste of precious event time to me. In my opinion the medal ceremonies are the perfect thing to put on the website.

John Mitchell (profile) says:

Stream free! But only if you pay.

I get OTA television, but tire of the way they hide the schedule details, forcing you to watch hours to see the minutes of interest. I tuned in for a “coming up at 7” race that did not happen until after 10. So I took the invitation to stream for free. But no, to see the free stuff, I have to have paid a cable service for access to the identical channel I’m watching OTA. And it apparently means that, instead of watching NBC full of ads, I can pay for a cable service in order to get a “free” stream with more ads. The Olympics are turning into a network-orchestrated reality TV show rather than a public international sporting event.

JBDragon (profile) says:

I’m a cord cutter. So I’m just getting the NBC content. I’m letting my TIVO just record everything and then finally last night I watched a little of the Olympics for the first time. So, so many commercials and not a lot of the competition. My Tivo got a workout of not only skipping all the commercials, but all the B.S. talk garbage going on. At least half the show I just skipped over. I guess that’s a time saver.

If they don’t want people to watch, keep doing what they’re doing. It sure can’t be any worse in other countries.

William H. Taft says:


Same shite, different day. Why is it that “Media” cannot grasp the fact that advertisements are an antiquated, inefficient means of generating revenue? I suppose that model has worked for nearly a century, but stories like this prove it is a failing system- you simply can’t rely on ads alone; ads can’t satisfy the revenue goals and keep consumers happy at the same time.

There are other methods and means out there to draw money- *if you have a good product/service*. Those individuals and companies who grasp this concept now are going to be the ones still around in 5 years. If you are a website, newspaper, tech blog, tv network, or what have you, when it comes to making money: INNOVATE or DIE. You won’t be missed.

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