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Editor's Note: Controversy Over NBC Olympics Coverage Gives Marketers a Golden Message

1 Aug, 2012 By: Thomas Haire Response


Thomas HaireDuring the first few days of the London Summer Olympics late last month, controversy raged on social media outlets — especially Twitter — about NBC’s coverage of the world’s pre-eminent sporting event. The network was bashed repeatedly for its tape-delayed coverage of key events, its fawning over American athletes at the expense of other competitors, and the feeling that the network was treating the event more like a poorly executed reality TV show than a series of wonderfully compelling sporting events.

At the same time, however, NBC’s first weekend of primetime broadcasts averaged nearly 36 million viewers, the best first weekend for any Olympics in history according to Nielsen, with the opening ceremony drawing more than 40 million viewers — the best result ever for a Summer Olympics held outside the U.S.

With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that NBC was treating its negative social media reviews with disdain, while at the same time pointing out that online live viewership of events was exploding at The network is offering 5,500 hours of coverage across its TV networks and online platform, twice the amount of coverage hours as it had for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. On the first full day of competition alone, 10 million U.S. fans streamed events online through, double the number of those who streamed on Beijing’s opening day four years ago.

You might be asking yourself, though, “What does this information mean to marketers?” Well, aside from making NBC’s advertising partners pretty happy, the early days of Olympic coverage also provide marketers an intriguing look at how TV, online video and social media have combined to create a powerful, multilayered story.

While the complaints about NBC’s coverage on Twitter were extensive (just check the Twitter hashtag #NBCfail for examples), many sports journalists (and would-be sports journalists) also drove key narratives (and, thereby, viewership) by watching live streaming coverage online and providing consistent updates about events that viewers could see later on the network’s taped primetime shows.

For many marketers, the story here is about seeing the power and importance of television exhibited for many who’ve begun to doubt it (what are all those complaints on Twitter, after all, except a plea for NBC to better use television to cover key events), while at the same time gaining a look at the growing importance of online video and social media. In direct response, any well rounded campaign today still starts on TV, but also includes expansive online video and social media drivers. Thanks to NBC and the Olympics, that point is being driven home in a different way.

About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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