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:
NBC clearly bringing home the gold medal in number of commercials. #Rio2016
— Everett (@EvGres) August 6, 2016
In effort to realize record profits from Rio 2016, NBC to become first network to air more than 60 minutes of commercials in a single hour.
— Norman Chad (@NormanChad) August 6, 2016
— Lauren Smith (@LaurnSmith) August 6, 2016
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.