wired reporting: Olympic Tape Delays Roil Fans, But It’s Good for NBC’s Business
NBC won’t win any medals for its coverage of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver this year. Its strategy of withholding online coverage to encourage people to watch on television during prime time appears to be working, though, at least when the Americans win lots of medals. The company is taking a walloping from viewers who object to the network’s tape delay of the games, undertaken to sell more expensive ads during at night.
In these hyper-connected times, people are finding out who won a medal before they have a chance to watch, and the immediacy that makes live sports programming so compelling is lost, to an extent. Worse, NBC expects to lose hundreds of millions of dollars televising the Olympics despite this ploy. Before the games got underway, NBC said it expects to lose a quarter of a billion dollars on broadcasting the event, because a weak ad market will fail to offset a whopping $820 million in licensing and production costs.
As for watching the games online, NBCOlympics.com offers a relatively scant selection of live events — about 400 hours according to various estimates. It showed 2,200 hours of live events online from Bejing two years ago. And even if you want to watch what they’re showing online, you can only do so if your ISP paid the required licensing fee.
There’s no way for you to watch for free if your ISP didn’t pay, and we were not able to log in to NBCOlympics.com using our Time Warner password, so in at least one case, a subscriber to an ISP that paid up is not able to watch.
Meanwhile, NBCOlympics.com itself post the results live, well in advance of the taped broadcasts, adding another potential spoiler to an already heady mix. And while you can follow the athletes on Twitter through NBC’s website, skier Jake Zamansky used this forum to post “Can’t wait to see how bad NBC covers the ski racing today,” as noted by Deadspin.
The value of a sports broadcast declines precipitously over time, which is why sports leagues don’t have to worry about file sharing networks eroding their businesses the way other video producers do. And that’s why so many people are mystified and frustrated by NBC’s tape-delay strategy. A quick Twitter search reveals countless viewer complaints and articles about those complaints.
Nonetheless, NBC is sticking to its guns, with vice president of sports communications Chris McCloskey telling the Boston Globe, “You can’t please everybody, but we try to serve the greater good.”
I never considered my self a winter Olympics fan. But that Shaun White half pipe gold medal was very exciting. You can tell that the USA team was all about having fun while schooling the other contenders.
Image from here