NBC enrages Olympics viewers one last time

CNN | The Hollywood Reporter | Twitter | Associated Press | Deadline Hollywood

NBC didn't manage to blunt criticism of its Olympics broadcasts by streaming the games' closing ceremonies live online Sunday afternoon. That's in part because it interrupted its evening broadcast of the ceremonies to debut a new situation comedy about veterinarians.

Fans of show-closers The Who were outraged, but fans of the British band Muse -- not shrinking violets under the best of circumstances, in this former music reporter's experience -- took to Twitter with even more fury after that band's performance of the Olympics' official song was cut.

CNN's Chelsea J. Carter curates a little of the Twitter reaction:

The Twitter-sphere exploded, with "#NBCfail" and "#closingceremonies" trending worldwide, after NBC cut out performances by Ray Davies, Kate Bush, The Who and the Muse in favor of a commercial-free airing of "Animal Practice."

"I still don't understand, it's a tape delay, so can't you do the math in advance? Why do you need to cut off the closing ceremony? #nbcfail," wrote Raj Sarkar on Twitter.

Things were even worse for some Los Angeles-based viewers, The Hollywood Reporter reports:

The Animal Practice preview also came about an hour after DirecTV went dark in Los Angeles for a half-hour during the closing ceremony, meaning some subscribers missed several of the show's performances.

These were the "social media" Olympics, though, which means reaction was part of the entertainment, writes the Associated Press' David Bauder.

NBC announced partnerships with both Facebook and Twitter before the games began. Their tangible impact was somewhat limited -- superfluous prime-time segments with Ryan Seacrest -- but the intangible impact of increasing visibility for the event is more important. People were more engaged, and watched more as a result, said chief NBC researcher Alan Wurtzel.

One out of five Olympic viewers in the U.S. watched more than one screen at the same time, with tablets or smartphones hooked into the Internet or social media, he said.

And, of course, they complained. There were 150 million tweets about the Olympics, Twitter reports. NBC Sports honcho Mark Lazarus told Bauder the network was listening. Sort of:

"Some of the criticism I think was fair and we took note of it and learned from it," Lazarus said, "but I think in general a lot of it came from people who weren't fully aware of all of the things we were doing."

But viewership was up over the 2008 Beijing games, Bauder notes, and a Pew survey of U.S. viewers found 76 percent thought NBC's coverage was dandy. The network may have broken even on the games. It did experiment a little, Bauder writes:

The network had planned to broadcast the gold-medal finals in singles tennis at 9 a.m. in all markets, meaning it would be live on the East Coast and delayed for three hours out West. Instead, the finals were shown live throughout the country. NBC paid a price; its West Coast ratings were only a third of those in the East. A similar approach was taken for the gold medal men's basketball game that the U.S. won. The network ultimately must decide whether consumer goodwill is worth the revenue loss.

In Great Britain, the BBC's broadcast of the closing ceremonies drew 26.3 million viewers, nearly 81 percent of the viewing population, despite airing Muse's performance. "The figures won’t account for numbers watching on big screens provided in pubs and parks across the country," Deadline Hollywood's report says. "The network says its Olympics coverage has reached 51.9M Brits since July 27th, or 90.4% of the population."

Related: Olympics 2012: What It Was Like Living on London Time in NYC (Huffington Post) | What the Olympics taught us about data journalism (The Guardian)

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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