SBD/August 1, 2012/Olympics

Jim Bell Reiterates NBC's Stance, Says Net Has "Every Right" To Show Games On Tape Delay

Bell said NBC's early results from the Olympics have been "hugely satisfying"
NBC London Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell yesterday addressed the net's tape-delay strategy during an appearance on SiriusXM's "Mad Dog Radio." Bell said, "When a company invests the kind of money that we have in the Olympics, we have absolutely every right to protect that investment. We've tried to utilize new technology to stream everything live, all the events live for the hard-core sports fan. But the fact is, and the numbers would seem to bear this out, there's still a huge audience out there of people who want to watch this stuff at a time when it is convenient for them, when there are mass audiences, when people can gather around and watch TV, and one of the last great family viewing events out there." Bell also said he has been pleasantly surprised by the London Games' TV ratings. "They are well above what we had expected," he said. "We thought if we can kind of keep it where we did in Athens (in 2004) that's going to be a big win. Well, we've gone well beyond that, and we've still got a long way to go here, but the early results have just been hugely, hugely satisfying" ("Mad Dog Radio," SiriusXM, 7/31).

NBC UNFAIRLY TAKING HEAT: In DC, Lisa de Moraes writes one of the "more popular sports" of the London Games has been "something called The Thrashing of NBC." This event -- in which NBC is "pilloried for failing to air popular Olympics competitions live, instead holding them to broadcast in prime time -- has been going on for ages." But this sport "has really come into its own with the 2012 Games, which, as others have noted, marks the first year that competitors have been able to widely use Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites to score points on NBC." Unfortunately, for "all those who believe NBC is failing viewers by not providing live coverage of the London Games, the United States is not actually the center of the universe, and not every country in the world that hosts the Games agrees to operate on United States East Coast Time during the Games" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/1). ESPN’s J.A. Adande said analysts "overstate the influence and the impact of Twitter," as studies show that "only some 15% of Internet users are actively on Twitter every day." Adande: "The vast majority of the people watching these Games are kind of these legacy viewers that are used to watching things on television.” SB Nation's Bomani Jones said,"As much as people are complaining on Twitter about what’s happening, you watch the timeline during those events while they’re on television. People are cheering like that stuff is happening, like people don’t know there’s a time difference. It’s not that big a deal” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/31).

WHAT ELSE SHOULD THEY DO?
DAILY VARIETY's Andrew Wallenstein wrote, "When you look at the TV ratings, it's hard to square the undeniable success NBC has had over the first three days -- 35.8 million viewer average makes London the most watched Summer Olympics to date -- with all the supposed dissatisfaction out there." Wallenstein asked, "Is it not reasonable to deduce that: a) if more people are watching the Olympics than ever, then... b) more people are happy with the Olympics than ever... c) doesn't that make the disproportionate amount of coverage about those who are unhappy unwarranted?" That "doesn't mean criticism of Olympics coverage doesn't merit any coverage." What is questionable "is the sheer volume of this coverage relative to other angles that could be taken." Even if "every single human with a Twitter account in the U.S. did disdain NBC's Olympics coverage -- a population of 140 million by a recent estimate -- there's still a majority of Americans whose thoughts on the Olympics aren't being heard" (VARIETY.com, 7/31). AD AGE’s Simon Dumenco offers a few thoughts about NBC's Olympics strategy “and the operatic freak-outs about NBC's Olympics strategy.” His four points: 1) "It has been perverse fun watching ad-supported, for-profit media outlets freak the hell out because of the business decisions made by ad-supported, for-profit NBC;" 2) "There is something insanely white-collar elitist media circle-jerkish about all this whining about tape delays;" 3) "Comparing the BBC's Olympics-broadcast business strategy to NBC's is just idiotic;" 4) "It bears repeating: NBC is not a charity" (ADAGE.com, 7/31).

SPOILER ALERT: In Phoenix, Megan Finnerty in a front-page piece writes spoilers, "contrary to popular belief, don't necessarily diminish people's enjoyment of a good story." Univ. of California-San Diego professor Nicholas Christenfield said, "In fact, they may heighten it." He said, "One can see the drama unfold more clearly if one knows the outcome." Finnerty noted rather than "cannibalizing the prime-time audience, daytime news and social-media coverage seems to be serving as a kind of hype machine for evening watching" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/1). In Oklahoma City, Don Mecoy writes, "In today's brave new media world, that old-school method still works." TV ratings on the first few nights of Olympic coverage "were strong, outpacing those of the Beijing games of 2008, when fewer people had access to instant results" (OKLAHOMAN, 8/1). However, USA Today columnist Christine Brennan said, "NBC is doing a great disservice to itself and frankly, embarrassing itself because it should come into the 21st century” (“NewsHour,” PBS, 7/31).

CAN'T SIT ON NEWS: In Chicago, Manker & Doyle note insulating yourself "from Olympic information can be challenging," as various media outlets have "sent alerts of wins or posted headlines about them online" before the events air on NBC. ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Mike Leber said, "We think that our fans and our viewers and our users want the information as quickly as we can get it to them. As far as the information, the results, we handle it the same as we would anything else for our viewers." Chicago Tribune Associate Managing Sports Editor Mike Kellams said that the newspaper "also posts results in real time as it would for Bears games and other sporting events of interests to its readers" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/1). The network news broadcasts are resorting to giving warnings to viewers before announcing the results of some events. NBC's Brian Williams said, "Here's what we have to do tonight, because news was made here today and it’s already been flashed all around the world. We have to talk about some real results, something we normally try not to do for the sake of those folks who like to watch it happen in primetime. So fair warning here” ("Nightly News," NBC, 7/31). CBS’ Scott Pelley last night said, “We got an earful from some of you today because we reported yesterday’s Olympic results before the delayed broadcast that runs behind the Games by several hours. Well, here comes another Olympic story, so don’t say we didn’t warn you this time” ("Evening News," CBS, 7/31). 
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