“I just won the Men’s 100M gold medal, but no one in the U.S. got to see it live! Shh! Don’t spoil the suspense for them before the NBC broadcast!”
Much has already been made about NBC’s decision to tape-delay the domestic broadcast of popular events at the 2012 London Olympics and how a gulf exists between those American fans who seek out (and share via social media) the live Olympics results and those Americans who don’t want to hear the results until they can see the events broadcast in the evening (so they shun the internet and social media until then).
The only way anyone in the United States would be seeing the 100M final legally would be on television on NBC. The American audience was already fired up about the tape delays from prior events and red tape with trying to watch the games online, but this event (or live broadcast lack thereof) took their anger to a completely different level.
[In fact, I incorrectly stated how simple it was to watch the Olympics online (legally) via NBCOlympics.com or BBC - in order to view live events online through NBC you must have an account with select "Pay TV" or cable providers (why does someone need to pay for cable television in order to view programming broadcast over the air?), and you can't watch the live BBC feeds unless you pay for a TV license. Of course, there are less-than-legal options for viewing events live, but if NBC wasn't dropping the broadcast ball there'd be little reason for such less-than-legal options to exist. I only found out about the cable-provider mandate today when a friend wanted to watch the U.S. women's soccer match against Canada online but doesn't have a cable subscription and was therefore disallowed.]
The #NBCFail hashtag used by fans on Twitter to voice their frustrations about the Olympics coverage is gaining momentum, yet it is questionable if NBC will change its broadcast game plan in order to satisfy the viewing public as opposed to just the advertisers seeking eyeballs.
What this proves is that NBC thinks their primary customer is the glut of advertisers paying the bills and NBC claims their viewership is up significantly over the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. However, this confusion of tape delays despite the immediacy of across-the-world results communication via social media has created a stir of backlash against the network and potentially the advertisers.
The world’s communications media is not isolated to television broadcast, but it seems that NBC continues to believe it to be.
So what can NBC do to satisfy ALL of their customers?
Probably nothing. By virtue of tape-delaying broadcast of events (and sharing most but not all events online) they won’t be able to prevent the results spoiling via Twitter and Facebook from continuing. There’s really no getting around that.
However, it remains pretty trivial for NBC to mandate an account with a cable or pay TV provider in order to view events online that would normally be played over the air. It would be ideal for anyone wanting to use the online viewing services to be granted permission whether they pay for cable or satellite television or not. Would doing so impact viewership in the evening for tape delay broadcasts? Maybe slightly, but the goodwill NBC is currently sacrificing might come back to haunt them.