The Czar was pleased to see that Comcast could barely keep up with demand for streamed Olympic events, and overall ratings for streamed events by other providers was also much higher than expected.
Perversely, the Czar was also pleased to see that NBC’s coverage of the Olympics was a ratings disaster for them, losing a hell of a lot of money for the network in advertising penalties (the fact that advertisers requested penalties for failed ratings in their original contracts indicates their confidence in NBC). The coverage was so bad that the Czar heard a DJ on a Sirius/XM music station go on a 4-minute rant about NBC.
Chief among the complaints was the spotty coverage—gold medal or even record-breaking performances by Americans went uncovered, only the most popular sports were shown, and some competitions went past midnight, with results already announces hours earlier. But to be fair, NBC can’t show some obscure track and field event and expect super-high ratings. They need to pay the bills, so yes—they’re showing commercials. And with so many events, they’re going to have to stagger them since they don’t have 20-some channels to utilize. What’s NBC to do?
Well, actually, the answer is in the streaming. NBC needs to get out of their $12 billion contract as soon as possible. In other words, stop covering the Olympics.
Instead, show the Olympics as streamed services on Comcast (which conveniently owns NBC), and license them to DirecTV, Dish, and other providers. This way, the public can watch events live, with minimal commentary, when they want to. And it’s not a suggestion—the public is clearly going that way.
Sure, the number of streaming viewers was a fraction of the broadcast viewers; however, the ratings numbers are clear: streaming viewers were far higher than expected, and broadcast viewers dropped nauseatingly low for the network. The change is happening now; NBC has two years until Korea to get in front of it.
Want to watch women’s archery between Korea and the Netherlands? Stream it. Want to watch men’s clean and jerk? Stream it. Want to watch swimming relay? Stream it.
Want to see an interview between Bob Costas and the plucky young American woman who took gold this morning? Watch that on NBC. Want to see Matt Lauer talk to the marathon runner stranded by some political change at home? Watch that on NBC. Get the sports off NBC and onto streaming—and save NBC for the Today-Show-style magazine slop they manage to do.
NBC has been accused of fudging some of its ratings numbers, and lately spinning some excuses as to why viewership may have been way lower than they first announced. Younger viewers, in particular, seem to be bored with the Olympics and this coveted demographic seemed to to have wandered off after the first couple of days.
Or, possibly, they got fed up with NBC’s assumption that Olympics viewers are all People-reading middle-aged women lusting after Michael Phelps, and drifted off to their phones and tablets to get streaming coverage or BBC or CBC feeds.
So, okay: if that’s how NBC wants to play it, then play it. Keep most of the regular programming on the air, have maybe a one-to-two-hour Olympic special on each night with the softball interviews and attempts to portray our athletes as anything other than sports nerds. Let Lauer get into low-intellect home-decorating ideas with the women’s gymnastics team and let Bob Costas lecture viewers on how little they know about what he just learned about Olympic speed walking.
And let us watch Judo with commentators who actually know the players and the rules weigh in briefly and softly after five minutes of total silence, punctuated every interruption in the action by a quick, 15-second commercial to pay for it all.
The Olympics will never be the SuperBowl nor the Oscars, and it shouldn’t be handled as such.