In addition to the great feats of endurance, strength, and heart that are unfolding at the 2012 London Olympics, NBC’s controversial coverage has drawn its own attention as a clash between old and new media. So far, traditional media is winning.
Despite the intense complaints from social media users, many of whom have organized their criticism under Twitter hashtags like #NBCFail and #NBCDelayed, the network’s national ratings for its Olympic primetime coverage are up 10 percent compared to its Beijing coverage in 2008, according to Nielsen. Of course, these high ratings are greatly helped by the fact that Americans have been dominating the swimming and gymnastics matches—two widely-watched Olympic sports in the U.S.
For all the fuss about social media, it’s “still business as usual at the Olympics this year,” observes Tim Nelson, president of marketing agency Tris3ct and former SVP at Young & Rubicam.
“The idea of watching sports in real time is practically an expectation now,” Nelson notes. “So the idea that you have to wait until you’re home at night to watch the Olympics…you can understand the backlash from the audience.”
Thanks to live streaming capabilities, watching a Premier League soccer match in Europe or a cricket match in India in real time from the United States is as easy as clicking on a link. Even the Super Bowl streamed live for the first time ever this year.
When stacked against advertising sales—NBC said it topped $1 billion mark in ad sales for the London Olympics, passing the $850 million in ad sales it got for the Beijing Olympics and making it biggest advertising haul for an Olympics in history —even virulent online comments fail to make a dent.
“The fact is it’s big business…but clearly there are indicators there are issues on the table that are going to need to be resolved. Media consumption habits are changing,” maintains Nelson.
Even though Americans are largely relegated to reading about Michael Phelps’ gold medal wins hours before they can actually watch him swim, the next Olympics could be different (besides being sans Phelps).
“We’ll have to see what happens with the ratings on these Olympics, and what the value of holding the content back was,” Nelson notes. “But by 2016 an always on, always connected world could make things like streaming the Olympics a reality,”