Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC Sports Group, has come out in clear defence of his network’s work on the 2012 Olympic Games in London (England), claiming that the coverage they are offering is fair and of high quality, while people complaining about their errors, despite having (very) valid points, were in the ‘loud minority’.
Amongst the key complaints leveled at the broadcaster (who like the BBC hold Olympic rights through to 2020) include the tape-delay of events in order to air them prime-time, though Lazarus has hit back at this by noting that across NBC’s collection of networks, over 158 of the 274 total hours broadcast have been live.
He claims that putting the headlining events on prime-time, despite 67% of those viewers admitting to already knowing the results, has seen a boost from the network over ‘live’ prime-time coverage on the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (China), while their claimed average of 30 million on their main channel (and peaks of 1.5m online) for 2012 is noted as being the channel’s highest-rated Olympics numbers of all time, even above the tailor-made 1996 Games in Atlanta (USA).
Meanwhile, Comcast (co-owners of the NBC Universal channel) have announced that the NBC channel (and the NBC Universal brand overall) are in with a potential chance of breaking even and ’making a little bit of money’ from the high ratings, despite previous projections of the network making a $200m loss due to the expensive rights agreement.
Despite the network offering streaming of all events live online, NBC are being targeted for their very specific focus in prime-time highlights, while other complaints have included technical glitches in the online streaming, large concentration of advertising, the poorly-handled coverage of the Opening Ceremony, and the ‘annoying’ presenting and commentary teams, lead by American Idol‘s Ryan Seacrest.
Lazarus noted that while the criticism is ‘fair and we are listening’, that it did not represent the ‘wider NBC’s Olympic’ audience, as he stated: “We listen. We read. We understand there’s people that don’t like what we are doing, but we think that is a very loud minority and the silent majority has been with us for the first six days. The overwhelming majority of the people are voting with their clickers, mouses and their fingertips on every device and saying we are with you.”
They claim that they are always looking at new ways to develop their coverage, including rumours of an ‘online-only streaming package’ to non-cable customers as of the 2014 Winter Olympic in Sochi (Russia), while the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) are set to have more live offerings due to the ‘smaller time difference’ between the two countries.
Lazarus claimed that analysis of viewing data will be a factor in deciding their next moves, summarising: “I don’t rule anything out. We’ve got the Olympics games through 2020 and the one thing we know for sure is that the media landscape is going to change. Our preference is to do things live in prime time where we can.”
While it is easy to hold the host nation broadcaster on a pedestal for their leading coverage of the event, the BBC have fairly regularly been able to offer both live and ‘prime-time’ options on any sports event they cover around the world, an approach that NBC executives are said to also be considering for future Olympic Games. Will NBC finally start to see a little sense in that model of sports broadcasting?
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