NBC has rightly earned some ink deriding its coverage of the Olympics so far (even as it breaks viewing records). But people on Twitter have been the fiercest critics of the National Broadcasting Company, attacking it again and again as the network stumbles to walk a fine line between pleasing their advertisers and dealing with the fact that the whole world can find out what’s going on on the web or from 24-hour news.
For instance, I checked Twitter on Friday and discovered all the secrets of the Olympic opening ceremony; Daniel Craig’s entrance, the NHS celebration, that some MP had complained about all the “multicultural crap”, that there was a tribute to British terrorism victims, etc. See, I follow a few British accounts, and they were reacting in real-time. Since I’m not particularly excited about the Olympics, I just assumed I was missing the opening ceremony and got on with my life.
Until it got to be about prime time, and NBC decided to finally show it in America. It was an eery experience, one made really goddamn annoying by Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera attempting to outdo each other with inane commentary. While we here in Rhode Island experienced the global event with only a three-hour delay, in California there was a six-hour delay. Naturally, quite a few people were pissed off, and made their displeasure felt; with such Twitter trends as #NBCfail, “Shut Up, Matt Lauer” and #Costasfacts (named for Bob Costas’ wonderful additions like reminding everyone that Uganda was once ruled by Idi Amin—as though everyone didn’t already know; thanks Last King of Scotland).
It wasn’t any better on Saturday, because by 3:00 PM anyone with access to the Internet and paying attention knew that the US beat South Korea, that Ryan Lochte took gold and Michael Phelps finished fourth, and that Elizabeth Beisel had taken silver. But instead airing all of that live, as it happened, NBC decided they would rather show that after 8:00 PM. Keep in mind, prior to 8:00 PM, NBC Nightly News reported those results anyways. You could’ve watched it online (assuming you subscribe to cable) or on your smartphone, but those two things were down most of the day as people tried to do exactly that.
I can understand why NBC would want to put high profile events on after 8:00 PM. That’s actually reasonably convenient. However, in this modern era, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t broadcast things live first, and then broadcast them again at a more convenient time.
There’s also absolutely no reason, if you have three hour time delay, to be an idiot and not look up who Tim Berners-Lee is (he’s the inventor of the World Wide Web). But instead of doing that, NBC decided to treat America to Meredith Viera going “if you don’t know who he is, well, we don’t either.” Or now, just on Monday night, NBC had its own commercial spoil the information that it’s withholding. This kind of idiocy isn’t forgivable.
Neither is what NBC did to The Independent’s Guy Adams; getting Twitter to suspend his account because he was criticizing them. Deadspin (linked above) has the best summation, but essentially, Mr. Adams posted a corporate email to an NBC’s Olympics executive. Even though the email account is public and corporate, upon prompting from NBC (which Twitter has partnered with to provide real-time coverage of the Olympics—irony!), Twitter decided to suspend the account due to a policy which bans sharing personal and private emails!
Somehow, you’d think Twitter, which has watched similar stories play out countless times on its own service, would know better. That NBC is a domineering jerk isn’t surprising, given the way it’s behaved. But Twitter, seriously, this is like a Facebook-style move. Guess that’s been working out though; treat your customers like garbage and somehow profit.
Anyway, at this point, it seems like the only thing on television with a greater time delay than the Olympics on NBC is HBO’s The Newsroom. And it’s also garbage.