from the we'll-adapt-when-we-damn-well-feel-like-it dept
Olympics watchers repeatedly begged Comcast for live opening ceremonies, more live events, less host prattle, and fewer ads ahead of the recent games in Rio. What did Comcast deliver instead? A smorgasbord of abysmal bloviation, tape delays, and so many advertisements that many people stopped watching in disgust. As a result, the Rio Olympics were the lowest rated Summer Olympics since 2000, with average viewership down 17% and an overall audience that was 25% smaller than 2012 in the 18-to-49 demo.
We’ve already noted how a big reason was Comcast/NBC’s absolute refusal to actually listen to paying customers and heed lessons from the cord cutting era. But a Bloomberg headline this week proudly crowed that Millennials were somehow to blame for the slide. Amusingly, the piece cites a comment from NBC exec Steve Burke, who last June described a scenario he said would be a “nightmare”:
“We wake up someday and the ratings are down 20 percent,? the chief executive officer of NBCUniversal said at a conference. ?If that happens, my prediction would be that millennials had been in a Facebook bubble or a Snapchat bubble and the Olympics have come, and they didn?t know it.”
That is, so we’re clear, an NBC exec predicting that if NBC’s Olympics ratings dropped, it would be the fault of Millennials living in a bubble — not possibly due to anything NBC did. And with ratings dropping from 17 to 25%, Burke’s nightmare scenario effectively came true. NBC is quick to point out that streaming was actually up, but that wasn’t able to help an overall dive in ratings. And while Comcast/NBC is quick to insist it’s adapting to consumer demand, people young and old found Olympic streaming to be an annoying and cumbersome experience littered with paywalls, delays, authentication issues, and other headaches:
“I?m sure NBC were patting themselves on the backs for how easy it would be to watch online this year, but that?s only true for cable subscribers, a slowly shrinking percentage of the US population, especially for Millennials. The reason NBC is losing Millennials to other platforms for entertainment is because all of those platforms have lowered the barriers to enjoy the programming. I can sign up for Hulu, Netflix, and HBO nearly in an instant. Oh, and did I mention they?re all ad free (with a premium on Hulu)?
Had NBC offered the entire Olympic Platform for a small fee (less than $10), they probably would have seen their Millennial numbers skyrocket. Hell, they could have charged $5 more for an ?Ad Free? presentation and padded their pockets even more. But instead, they relied on the old dying models of traditional broadcast network and revenue models of years past, and it bit them in the ass.
Why is streaming so clunky and difficult? Because most cable industry streaming efforts are designed to give the illusion of innovation, flexibility and adaptation, without actually providing any of these. Why? Because offering a truly easy, inexpensive online streaming service (Olympics or otherwise) would cannibalize the traditional cable TV cash cow. As such, easy, flexible and inexpensive streaming remains an intentional afterthought, and will until cord cutting finally reaches critical mass. In short, like so many legacy industries, pay TV won’t truly adapt until the house is fully engulfed in flames.