Bits & Bytes: NBC has much to learn from Olympics 'fails'
BY ROBERT EVATT World Business Writer
Sunday, August 05, 2012
8/05/12 at 8:29 AM
If you've used Twitter lately, you've probably seen the hashtag #NBCfail.
Users are taking NBC to task on the broadcaster's coverage of the Olympics, including its decision not to broadcast the chunk of the opening ceremonies that turned out to be a memorial for the 2005 London bombings. Or tape-delaying many Olympic events until the prime-time hours, when ad rates are much greater. Or having some delays in streaming video. Or announcing the results of big events on their news programs before actually showing the event.
But as much as I think NBC could have handled things much better, I'm not writing this just to criticize them. What I'm more interested in is how technology has raised our expectations for the event's presentation.
The basic details are, at least on paper, the same as the 2008 Olympics. The same network has the broadcast rights for the U.S. The events are similarly tape-delayed to maximize advertising dollars. With the Internet, it's easy to find the sports results before they're aired.
Yet NBC's coverage wasn't nearly as lambasted four years ago as it is now. I think the true difference comes in the rapid evolution of social media. Back in 2008, the main priority was to read and share news about the personal happenings of your friends.
But with Twitter, the priority can be a little different. Many people use that as a way to keep up with world events and current happenings. You don't have to actively search for news - instead, you're instantly bombarded with news that other people have chosen to share.
In other words, on Twitter it can be hard not to find out Olympics news before it's broadcast.
Then there's video streaming. Sure, it existed back in 2008, but video streaming has improved immensely since then and has become much more popular.
On top of that, video streaming seems much more personalized than television - rather than waiting for the television to show what you want, you can start watching what you want right away. NBC wanted to take advantage of that by offering live streaming of all kinds of events that won't get much television airtime.
Yet even these events are delayed, at least a couple minutes shy of being truly "live," probably to create synergy or some other meaningless corporate buzzword with the network broadcast.
It's the latest example of new technology ramming into old ways. Only this time, it's affecting a very infrequent and massively watched-event. This is much bigger than a website changing its privacy settings.
Then again, for all the griping about NBC's moves, the network doesn't seem to have suffered. Nielsen reported the opening ceremony telecast got a record-breaking 40.7 million viewers, and subsequent nights are breaking records, as well.
I would hope that, at the very least, NBC tries to learn from all these complaints and makes the 2014 Olympics a little more viewer-friendly. But the pessimist in me thinks the network will prioritize recouping the $4.38 billion it paid for the next four Olympics.
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Microsoft offers new free email
There's no shortage of ways to get a free email address, but Microsoft just unveiled a new one - Outlook.com. The new service has unlimited storage, easy access to Twitter and Facebook, and integration with Skype. It looks sleek and uncluttered, so it's definitely worth a try.
This presents an interesting situation as Microsoft already operates Hotmail. Yes, Hotmail's still around. No, Hotmail won't be transitioned into Outlook.com. Why?
Microsoft engineers have said that it's much easier to build a new service from scratch than try to redo an old one. Which may be true, but it's also true that Hotmail has seemed stuck in the past and clogged with ads for a long time now, and Google's Gmail has been much more popular for a long time. Microsoft may have felt it's better to start anew than to try to rehabilitate a stinker.
So far the approach seems to be working: More than a million people signed up for the service in just a few days.
Original Print Headline: NBC must learn from Olympics 'fails'
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One of NBC's most publicized "fails" was running a "Today" show promo with Missy Franklin, gold medal winner in the 100-meter backstroke, just before it aired the tape-delayed race in which she won the medal. MARK J. TERRILL / Associated Press