Why #NBCFail Was Valid & Simple Changes They Can Make …

Despite the fact that ratings went very well for NBC, a number of touchpoints on their coverage fell flat for me. This meant I missed events (the whole indoor track cycling line-up) and saw far too much of others (repeated volleyball matches).

These four suggestions allude to simple, “do-able” changes for the next time around.

Lack of on-screen GUI: watch any morning show, financial show, sports show and not only do they tell you what’s going on, but they want you to know what’s coming up. This is easily done with on-screen GUI. If you’re like me, perhaps you remember the days before the score and the first-down marker was placed on the field in US Football games? Well, changes like that reflect the fact that people don’t break out three hours anymore to watch one game (or they go off do other things, flip channels, etc.) and help keep them informed. Taking a page out of video games, TV networks started doing this and now it’s hard to imagine football without it.

When a network has so much programming that it needs to send to viewers how do you NOT do this? Viewers benefit from having the “info” button have a thoughtful reportage of what is on and what is upcoming. By contrast, my info button was simply a laundry list of every possible thing they might show during the course of air time. Descriptions that broad are not all bad. But that means I have to look online (print) for exact times. And that is “work”. Make it easier for us.

Speaking of infoguide, why make the block eight hours long? Breaking the programs into more defined categories of programming might be more work at the network, but it helps fans to pinpoint their favorite programming. It was as if the assumption that since you like the Olympics, one might watch ALL the programming. That strategy (if we call not lifting a finger a strategy) worked well in getting people to like curling from the Winter Olympics (it’s been reported that curling has become a sleeper classic), but a happenstantial strategy teeters on just making it difficult to find and see the particular program on wants to see… A infoguide that offers little specificity and looks like this:

could easily look like this and offer detail that enhances web/print schedules.

I also think that NBC could have done a better job of using their additional/cable channels by developing carrier specific channels with all the Olympic-aired content similar to the News Mix/Sports Mix that DirecTV offers. Bottom line is that when you’re a week in and you find out that MSNBC has aired a bunch of stuff (and I’m not saying it’s their fault, but nobody told me), I wonder if structurally they could do more. Because when it comes to sports I watch (F1, baseball, etc.) I know when and where to look for air times and results (if they aren’t live).

Basketball fans easily recall the first week of the NCAA Tournament when there are, what, 16 games going on at once. The channels did a great job of broadcasting tip-off times and television schedules. It just felt like NBC went so far in the strategy of web that they forgot to sell. Just because it’s the OLympics doesn’t mean I WILL watch it.

And lastly, toothy wrap-ups and spoil the spoiler-alerts… I think we live in the age of information fast and immediate. If I cared, I would be confounded by the lack of information of results (plus black-outs of live ostensibly ratings winning events) in real-time, only to get a news update from the New York Times or the Pulse web app or something like that. With exception to Formula 1, which if possible, I watch live—even the races in Asia calling for a 3AM wake-up—I want the result at the time it happens.

American television audiences are fickle, so I don’t which way to go. While I hate delays in results, it didn’t hurt their ratings. Fact of the matter is regardless of the exact strategy, BC can’t pretend these are results fresh off the press, like they do. (Honorable mention to the ridiculous teasers in local network sports news… heck I’ll just Google it instead of waiting 20 minutes.)

I favor a strategy of a live showing on the local channels only to wrap it up in prime time later, expanding organically to include results from sports people don’t really watch as needed. Watching the whole 123 minutes of the Women’s semi-final would have been dreadful for the non-soccer fan. But a cut-down wrap-up—a la NFL Replay (where NFL cuts out the fat of a football game (60 minutes taking three hours) and develops it for an hour and a half airing) would help give what in the US is considered a beta sport still prime airing despite the fact the format is considered unwatchable in the US’ commercial-break-centric television culture.

And while I liked it the hour-lng profile on London’s travails through WWII was a needed history lesson. But not when I’m expecting Olympic coverage. It felt like I asked my mom how her day is going and got sat down for a ten-minute discussion, which can happen. I felt that the infoguide again did Mr. Brokaw’s break-out a dis-service.

I read an article on adage.com sticking it to the #nbcfail movement in social media. And the Ad Age article was right: NBC is there to make money and that’s why networks bid for, get and televise the Olympics. That said, when Americans collectively sit around and share Olympic moments that could be argued may never be shared in this generation, it can become a bit painful to wonder to what “cost-center” or corporation we owe this moment. And to the extent that various moments like that occur (holding the Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps grand accomplishments away from the public can be seen as a cynical and counter-productive strategy as was often the case).


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