Yesterday after I posted about Jordyn Wieber being left out of the Olympics women’s gymnastics all-around competition and indicating that Gabby Douglas had won the gold medal, I got a significant tongue-lashing on Facebook for spoiling the event for everyone waiting to watch the delayed broadcast on NBC later that night.
In Olympics prior to 2008 in Beijing, it was significantly easier to keep event results secret through the use of tape delay across time zones because there were no major instantaneous communication applications like Facebook or Twitter. Even major sports network websites through CBS and ESPN were not updated nearly as frequently with up-to-the-minute sports results and videos as they are today.
But NBC is doing everything possible to save North American broadcast of the events (and their results) for the evening so they can maintain prime time viewership of big events (and capitalize on advertising dollars). This makes sense because carrying these events live would mean airing the most popular ones at inopportune times when the advertising dollars would be thinner.
That being said, there are so many viewers who want to see the events on television to learn the results, so they’ve avoided Facebook and Twitter and sports websites that immediately post the results but it’s obviously impossible to shut down these communication media (well Twitter crashes a lot, so there’s that).
In trying to maintain the suspense of the evening broadcast of the Olympics, NBC ended up getting in its own way by foreshadowing a women’s swimming race broadcast with Missy Franklin and immediately following it with a promo for the next morning’s Today Show with Missy Franklin and the gold medal she was about to win.
So the problem with the communication timing of Olympics results is centered around two groups of individuals – those who want the results immediately as they happen live, and those who don’t want to know the results until they see it occur on television.
Sadly, these two groups of individuals overlap significantly since they’re both heavy users of Facebook and Twitter.
Is there anything that can be done to solve the problem and maximize the overall level of public satisfaction while also maximizing advertising revenue?
NBC does provide viewing of live events online at NBCOlympics.com but with many American viewers stuck at work during the live running of events five time zones away, it’s hard to find time at a work computer to watch the games as they happen.
Also, because there are many events occurring at the same time NBC airs a lot of additional programming on their other networks like CNBC and NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus).
It appears that the only way to keep these two segments of viewers truly separated is that the impetus to maintain suspense and secrecy is with the viewers themselves with the expectation that they’ll self-police their avoidance of Facebook and Twitter. However, some folks have gone so far as to say they’ll “hide Olympics-spoiling friends” on Facebook or unfollow them on Twitter until the Olympics have concluded.
This will forever be remembered as the SPOILER ALERT Olympics. In four years, with the games in Rio de Janeiro and the time difference between Rio and New York being one hour, it will be easier to keep the American viewership happy.