NBC Olympics

As a part of the millenial generation, I, like many of my peers do not watch traditional broadcast television. I am not merely a cord cutter, I am a cord never. At no point in my adult life have I had cable or satellite service. Hell, I haven’t even had an antenna for the past 5 years.

I’ve long said that if content companies deliver the content I want via the medium I want that I would pay for it. HBO did exactly what I wanted with HBO Now. They delivered a rock-solid streaming-only platform on all the devices I wanted at the price I was willing to pay. Most companies have yet to figure out that the HBO Now model is precisely what we want.

It is unsurprising then that NBC didn’t figure any of this out for the Olympics, as Brenton Harry noted on Medium yesterday.

On Friday of last week, Bloomberg wrote an insulting piece outlining the viewership stumbling blocks that NBC has faced with the 2016 Olympics in Rio, particularly with the coveted 18–49 age block which dropped 25%. Ok, so way more than Millennials, but I’ll continue to read. The article goes on to loosely blame the regulars like Snapchat and Netflix, with very little (read: none) criticism at NBC’s presentation of the Olympics themselves, from the actual coverage, to the user experience of the platforms.

Bloomberg is careful to note that NBC has made this Olympics a blowout, featuring more content than ever before. They even ‘allowed’ Buzzfeed to run NBC’s Snapchat:

From Bloomberg:

NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus said the network has a plan to profit from its Olympics investment, by giving people more options. This year, for example, the network put more than 6,000 hours of coverage online and allowed BuzzFeed to run its Olympics Snapchat channel.

Sure, yeah, allowing a modern-day media company like Buzzfeed to integrate into your programming is a smart move to incline millenials to view your content, but they still fail to realize that the platforms themselves aren’t up to my generation’s standards.

In Harry’s response to Bloomberg, he notes the various ways he attempted to view the opening ceremony in Rio: Apple TV (including the NBC Sports and NBC apps), the web, and finally over the air. With both internet-based platforms Harry was greeted with several layers of authentication, all requesting that he be tied to a cable company of some sort. When he was able to finally watch over the air, there were ads after ads after ads, all interrupting the ceremony. Whenever he could watch the ceremony it was filled with commentary appealing to only the lowest common denominator.

After sitting through the same Nationwide and Chevy spots as I had just 10 minutes ago, we come back to the ceremony, and even though we’re watching the Mountain Standard Time delay feed, we’ve missed parts of the ceremony. We had just settled back into the rhythm of the presentation, when it’s back to commercials. It’s roughly the same ones we just saw, and again we return with time having passed in the ceremony, dropping us back in wherever NBC saw fit. It wasn’t until NBC cut out of “The History of Brazil” piece for yet another commercial break that I finally just turned the TV off.

Even when he was able to reliably watch the games over the air the directing was awful.

[We] sat and watched the Swimming and Gymnastics primetime presentation. It opened with Simone Biles and Co., but then, despite being filmed earlier in the day, inexplicably goes from the earlier rounds of Gymnastics to Swimming. Hours pass before we finally get to see the resolution to those Gymnastics rounds, even though Simone Biles and Michael Phelps both easily served as headlines for Primetime.

In short, NBC is serving badly directed programming and refuses to acknowledge and fully server any of the methods my generation uses to consume content. One of the very first things any broadcast or journalism student will learn is that the medium is the message.

From Bloomberg:

“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.”

We knew the Olympics were going on. Sure there’s a bubble that we live in, but if you want us to view your content, you’ve got to bring it into the bubble. NBC serves a crap product using an archaic technology, then wonders why an entire generation fails to consume it. There’s a reason why my content consumption is limited to HBO Now, Hulu, and Netflix: they are the only ones who get it.

Bloomberg and NBC want to blame the audience for not participating in their content the way they expected them to. But if the results were not what they expected, perhaps they should consider that maybe the problem is with the product.

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