With the whole world watching its 2012 London Olympics coverage, even if every aspect of NBC's every broadcast went off without a hitch, the network would still likely be taking some heat on social media. And sure enough, even though it is surpassing its coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics by nearly 2,000 hours, NBC's tape delays of some marquee events have inflamed the Twittersphere.
In a show of accountability at the highest level, NBC's executive producer of the games, Jim Bell, took to Twitter on Sunday, July 29, to address some of the complaints.
The #NBCFail and #NBCsucks hashtags surged on Sunday, with many posters also complaining about the quality of NBCUniversal's online platform, which promised to show every sporting contest live for those unwilling to wait hours for the network's prime-time coverage of the day's events, according to Reuters.
"Coverage on both net & cables a mix of tape and live events. Yesterday nearly 40 hours of live Oly sports on television btw," Bell tweeted.
James Poniewozik, a Time magazine TV critic, tweeted that "NBC tape delay coverage is like the airlines: its interest is in giving you the least satisfactory service you will still come back for." When Bell responded to him with details about the live stream, Poniewoziik then tweeted: "Haven't agreed w. all NBC Olympic coverage decisions, but credit to Oly producer @Jfb for engaging with/responding to viewers on Twitter."
Vivian Schiller, NBC’s chief digital officer, got in on the act as well. Schiller retweeted a message that said “the medal for most Olympic whining goes to everyone complaining about what happens every 4 yrs., tape delay,” reports the New York Times. She approvingly added “+1” to the Twitter posting, which was written by Jonathan Wald, the executive producer of Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN.
In spite of the hashtags, NBC said in a press release Sunday that its two-day prime-time average of 35.6 million viewers is the best start to a Summer Olympics on record, and that its 28.7 million average viewers topped first-night numbers from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics by more than 2 million viewers, and nearly 5 million more than Beijing in 2008.
According to the Times, NBC should have been more forthcoming about coverage and should have posted advisories on nbcolympics.com. Having execs respond on Twitter shows that NBC is listening to its viewers, but perhaps it should have better communicated its coverage details in advance.
Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg