It’s been almost a week since the 2012 Olympics began, and what a week it’s been.
That is, a tough week — for NBC anyway. The network has come under some serious social-media fire for their coverage which many, many people think has been shoddy — to put it nicely.
This is where it all started. The Opening Ceremony marked the official kick-off to this year’s London Olympics. The anticipation was great — until we all learned NBC was neither broadcasting it live nor making it available to stream online.
We’d have to wait several hours to watch it, until prime time. Surprise, surprise. But that’s not the only Opening Ceremony gaffe they made.
NBC decided not to broadcast parts of the ceremony, according to NBC spokesman Greg Hughes, because “our programming is tailored for the U.S. audience.”
You can view part of what they cut here.
It’s an evergreen issue: Every time we have an Olympics held on foreign soil, we hear plenty of complaints.
Many argue that NBC could, at the very least, broadcast some of the more anticipated events live and still show highlights during prime time. And many others are frustrated that in the age of social media, keeping the results a secret seems nearly impossible.
“Note to Olympic fans…avoid all types of media and conversation today if you plan to wait until primetime for the tape delayed events to find out how Team USA has done today. Apparenlty NBC is the only outlet not broadcasting the results in real time. It’s like watching the Super Bowl on the DVR…..Monday. #nbc,” wrote Facebook user Aaron Webster.
Spoilers, sans spoiler alerts
As if avoiding hearing or reading about Olympic results wasn’t hard enough, NBC even managed to spill the beans moments before broadcasting the highly anticipated games.
Missy Franklin, the 17-year-old U.S. swimmer from Colorado, won gold in the 100-meter backstroke. But just 6 minutes before the U.S. audience could watch the event, NBC ran a promo of Franklin proudly displaying her gold medal for a segment on the “Today Show.”
And before the men’s swimming 400-meter individual medley final aired on the network, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams came on — leading with Williams’ announcement that Ryan Lochte had taken the gold, while Michael Phelps placed fourth.
Needless to say, audiences weren’t pleased.
Online streaming problems
One of NBC’s biggest defenses — their go-to retort for when viewers complain about the tape delay — is that live streaming is available at NBCOlympics.com.
But the online streaming has received just as much #NBCFail action as the tape delay has. Slow-buffering feeds, freezing or dropping frames and ill-timed commercial breaks were among the most common complaints I found.
Not to mention, you can only watch online if you have a cable or satellite subscription. NBC reportedly paid more than $1 billion for the rights to air the Olympics, so it makes sense they’d want to protect that.
But what doesn’t make sense is they didn’t offer any other kind option, such as creating an opportunity for viewers to pay to watch the Olympics online.
The Twitter controversy
NBC had already been dealing with enough criticism, when along came Guy Adams. Adams, an LA correspondent for London-based daily The Independent, had been very publicly critical of NBC’s gaffes via articles and tweets.
Then last week, he tweeted this: “The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven’t started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think! Email: Gary.email@example.com.”
NBC, who we later learned was tipped off by Twitter, filed a formal complaint that resulted in Adams’ account being suspended. The issue at hand was that he had allegedly violated Twitter rules by publishing a private email address, although the debate began on whether a corporate email address (which appears elsewhere on the Internet) is actually “private.”
Eventually, NBC withdrew their complaint after a barrage of flak surfaced all over the media and the Web.
Response from NBC
So far, NBC hasn’t said much in respond to the many criticisms out there, other than to say that the #NBCFail phenomenon represented a very small minority, and that the ratings speak for themselves.
But there have been a couple times NBC has chimed in. Unfortunately, this has only continued to harm their case.
Vivian Schiller, NBC’s chief digital officer, responded on Twitter when tape-delay complaints first began cropping up.
She has since deleted the most egregious tweet, but here is what it said:
A screen shot of the tweet can be found here.
Next came Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager of NBC Sports Digital, who decided to chime in on the streaming problems.
According to the New York Times:
Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager of NBC Sports Digital Media, said from London that extensive troubleshooting so far suggests that the technical problems might be with the bandwidth provided by cable operators, or users’ computers or devices.
Cordella said that tweaking will continue and that he hoped that the problems were resolved on Sunday.
So, basically, it’s all our fault. Or at least that’s what it seems they’re suggesting.
NBC hosts Meredith Viera and Matt Lauer continued to fuel the flames while they appeared to suffer from foot-in-mouth syndrome for basically the entire length of their broadcasts. Huffpo recaps, “Some of Lauer and Viera’s finer moments” which “include linking Madagascar, the African island nation, to the animated movies, reminding viewers that most of the athletes marching in the ceremony would not win a medal, and talking over the many, many musical interludes.”
NBC recently conceded on some of the issues — kind of, anyway. It’s a starting point.
Of course, this is merely scratching the surface of the many NBC goofs during the 2012 Olympics. Have you noticed anything worth noting? Or, perhaps. do you think this is all blown out of proportion?