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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 9:50am

    Let me get this straight, NBC is blaming people getting what they want when they want it for being unhappy with being given what they're given and told to like it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 9:50am

    This should be the definition of "Ignorance is bliss" If they don't see it by now, they are happy to let themselves fall off the plane of existence...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      Its not ignorance, but rather being authoritarian, without being the government, they can only force their employees to do as they say, but cannot force their customers to play along..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 9:53am

    So much wasted effort

    Spending the time and effort to watch The Event That Shall Not Be Named via alternative means is rather like finding the front door to an event crammed full of roadblocks and checks, looking for a side-door only to find out that the event inside was crap no matter what entrance you used.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 4:09pm

      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!)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McFortner (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:02am

    Or as NBC says, "Don't think of it as excessive ads, think of it this way: Now we can watch Coca-Cola taking on Pepsi in near real time!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:08am

    They should adopt soccer advertising...

    Soccer goes 45+ minutes with no commercials. I would rather see longer blocks with a few on screen ads than their current model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Retsibsi (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:10am

    This would be the same NBC that managed to not show the 7/7 tribute section in the opening ceremony at the 2012 Olympics in order to show adverts would it?
    I have several friends living in the US who were (and still are) incandescent about that

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    justok (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:10am

    They're planning ahead. Trying to keep future prices down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PRMan (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:10am

    Unlocated to Canada...

    Watched the Opening Ceremony there but now cbc.ca is trying to copy NBC. They had more commercials during the opening ceremonies than ever. I had to go all the way to England to get a decent show.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:21am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:34am

    The reality is, they read Techdirt

    Advertising is content. "What do you mean you don't like our content?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 10:45am

    The television broadcast probably isn't meant for you. It's for your parents and grand parents.

    If you are interested in the actual Olympics, watch on NBC's app. It's actually pretty good and shows that NBC is thinking about this a great deal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:43am

      Re:

      "If you are interested in the actual Olympics, watch on NBC's app."

      I heard their app is riddled with adware and borderline malware, but that's just I've heard.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 1:13pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 1:21pm

      Re:

      But you have to have a cable subscription to watch anything on the app. Sure, you can watch highlights -- each preceded by a commercial as long as the highlight -- but not events. And even opening the app requires me to sit through a 5 second static ad for Citi.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:03am

    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.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:12am

    IOC Commitee

    Dear Techdirt,

    It has come to our attention that you are not an official sponsor of the Olympics (tm)(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.

    Sincerely,

    The IOC

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:30am

      Re: IOC Commitee

      You know, I've read so many stories about the Olympics heavy handed trademark protection moves yet sites like Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/olympics) 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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        trollificus (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:13pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:19am

    I wonder if even with all the Govt help in many fronts they can end up bankrupt because of this behavior. Because clearly if any store out there treated their customers with so much contempt they'd be out of business in no time. It actually happened near here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:40am

    Olympics?

    What is the Olympics you speak of?

    I've not seen a single thing about it on twitter or facebook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:42am

    In retrospect, NBC's heavy rotation of a WalMart ad featuring "Here we Go Again" by Whitesnake mow makes perfect sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Fact Check, 8 Aug 2016 @ 12:01pm

    Between the two quotes you list the London Olympics as happening in 2010 when they were in fact in 2012.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 12:34pm

    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....)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 12:48pm

    its the customers fault we are greedy and we will make sure to tell everyone it is their fault. Amazing the people in charge ever managed to get there instead being at a job they qualify for as in menial labour.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 1:09pm

    Please have ABC notify us when the ads/games are finished.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 8 Aug 2016 @ 1:43pm

    New Tagline

    Comcast/NBC -"Home of Value Added Content, Just What Everyone Wants".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nurlip (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 1:53pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TDR, 8 Aug 2016 @ 5:41pm

    I'm surprised that with all their thuggish trademark control freakery, the IOC hasn't forced Olympia Dukakis to change her name. Doesn't seem any less ridiculous than anything else they do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ruby, 8 Aug 2016 @ 8:23pm

    A large part of the problem is that NBC is a for-profit network. In a lot of other countries the Games are aired on public accesses networks requiring little to no advertising interruptions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2016 @ 8:36pm

    They're just working up to the next Olympics where it will be all commercials with a small box in the corner playing the actual opening/closing ceremonies and events. They might be kind enough to flip that around and have the ads be in the small box for 30 minutes out of every hour if they get enough fan mail this year.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Mitchell (profile), 8 Aug 2016 @ 8:44pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 8 Aug 2016 @ 11:44pm

    The Ad-Bombing Will Continue Until Revenue Improves

    Welcome to a world run by the corporates, of the corporates and for the corporates.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JBDragon (profile), 9 Aug 2016 @ 7:52am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Aug 2016 @ 9:01am

    This isn't why I have a VPN subscription. But as long as I've got it, I'll use it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    William H. Taft, 9 Aug 2016 @ 11:39am

    SSDD

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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