I’ve been looking forward to the Olympics. I bought food for specific Olympic dishes, invited people over, checked broadcast schedules and talked with a lot of people about this years coverage. Dreaming about how incredible it could be. I went to the NBC website, logged in to get emails when specific sports are broadcast so I won’t miss a minute of coverage.
So when my friends and I gathered last night to watch the brilliant Danny Boyle’s vision for an agrarian society making the transition to industrial revolution and through the modern day – we buckled our seat belts for what we were told would be breathtaking. Sadly, NBC’s visual coverage was segmented, exclusionary and the commentary was the worst Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at best and at worst terribly insulting. Watching it last night, I was cranky. I knew that I was seeing 43 Million dollars being spent and it was a crime not to see it in the way it needed to be seen.
I’m sure if I had seen it correctly, I would’ve been a little skeptical on the whole “Frankie and June” love story playing out.. but we’ll never know.
So this morning, I’m ready. Coffee is made, I’ve got apps downloaded and an itchy remote control finger. This should be information overload. This should be the most incredible spectacle of real time updates and sports competition the world has ever known. But it wasn’t even close.
I flip on the TV to catch up with cycling. This grueling five hour race over 100+ miles is a great way to start the games! I’m 10 minutes in learning all the competitors and where they are from, how they recently fared in the Tour de France and this is great.
I open the app and see that I can see highlights from the race and it tells me who has won.
Next up, swimming. Oh this should be good. Michael Phelps is looking to be the greatest athlete in the pool ever and Ryan Lochte has been training harder than ever before. This was a big story in Olympic qualifiers.. Sweetness!
I glance at facebook and CBS Sports tells me that the race has already happened and who’s won.
First heat is up and Michael phelps competes and leads his heat at 4:13 approx. Next heat is all Lochte, they talk about his competitive nature, how he’s pushed Phelps over the last 2 years and how he’s now the hunted favorite instead of in the hunt.
He wins his heat and we’re back to the studio with Al Michaels and Dan Patrick. They’re excited to share with us this first exciting event tonight featuring Team USA’s best swimmers. Then I glance at facebook and CBS Sports tells me that the race has already happened and who’s won.
I’m two events in and already I’m getting trumped. It’s terrible and honestly I started to wonder why this is happening.
Four years ago at the Beijing Olympics, smart phones were on the market and in use. iPads and tablets were on the horizon but still in the distance. Social media grand plan was yet to be fulfilled. So 4 years ago, NBC had a much easier job.
The world is now more flat than it used to be. In another four years, I imagine it will be flatter. The information problem is not going away.
So what’s NBC to do? Here’s a couple ideas I have for their executive staff if I had been in their meetings. First, some statements we need to agree upon.
1. We watch TV differently than we did four years ago.
Hulu, HBOGO, DirecTv, Comcast, all have apps for our phones and tablets. As Americans, we love the on demand world. Why aren’t Olympic sports given the same treatment. There’s nothing to invent, just utilize the content.
2. Real time updates will be happening through every news source known to man.
If there’s anything the modern news age has taught us is that news outlets aren’t even waiting for sources of controversial news stories. Why would verifiable sports be any different? NBC, your competition will be looking to tell their viewers what’s going on. There will be photos, video and definitely headlines – think accordingly.
3. You have just one audience
Because timezones effect programming on a regular basis I can see why this has been a hurdle but you’ve got to think about it like the NFL, MLB and the NBA. All of those events happen in real time and so should your olympics coverage. I understand that showing Judo prelims at 2AM PST may not be the most exciting but I would understand that I made the choice not to be awake. That I valued sleep more than the sport and that’s ok. Instead, I’ve got real time for the events (+6 hours) and East Coast time for the coverage (+3 hours) So the second largest market is competing against 2 consistent spoilers at every moment.
So how do you combat this?
4. Inform your audience that you won’t be focusing on time zones.
We’re west coasters and we’re laid back most of the time. This really won’t bother us. Give me some :15 and :30 second spots on what’s happening. Tell me about your new approach for a new world. Complement us on our cosmopolitan approach to life. We’ll get it and we’ll love you for it. If there was a catchy slogan about the dissolution of prime time “Prime time is now Your time!” that would be even better. You’re smart and you have smart people working for you, you can make it great.
5. Give us the choice for real time of east coast/USA time.
We want information. We live on it. Being a responsible news outlet is something that we’ll applaud so of course set up your twitter account and facebook pages with real time updates as events happen in London. But let us have the option to get it in real time or on the one time zone for the US (or both!). Better yet, tell your audience that if they want to be slightly insulated to make these broadcasts all about them, unsubscribe from following other sports news outlets so the surprise doesn’t get spoiled.
I know that campaign will take some finesse, the other news outlets will go on the offensive saying, “NBC sports doesn’t want you to be informed” but you’ll release :13, :30 and :60 commercials giving us your point of view first. That way when CBS or ESPN gets mad, they look terrible. It’s competition and your’ve got smart people working for you, I bet they can come up with this. I bet you could have a full 2-5 minute video that walks through all your coverage and how it will work. That would help your audience understand how you’ll be doing things and what behavior will help us, as your audience, get the most value out of our interaction with you.
6. Have everything as an on demand option.
Every sport, every match, every athlete should be on demand. Whether it’s the app or the website or a special partnership with YouTube, Hulu or DirecTv – give us the opportunity to check out what we want if we
ve missed the event. Again, it’s not a new technology you have to dream up. Just a form that you need to embrace.
I understand that over 5,300+ hours of coverage is outrageous to compile but I didn’t bid on the Olympics, you did. What if your bid was thinking bigger than just the American market. What if the coverage was more global or at least english speakers. Those would be expanding markets that I know you’ve already got a presence in. I’d be ok to hear someone with a British, Australian or Canadian accent or really anyone who can speak english well talk about the sport. We could have more global coverage and how incredible would that be.
Informing huge groups, a scalable broadcast!?!?! Sound like dollars to me.
7. Please don’t consistently penalize me with ads by using your app.
The On-Demand and live component to the broadcast is by far your strongest value proposition. Please don’t put me through 3-5 commercials every time I switch sports. Help push your brand by receiving applause at the use of your product.
HBOGO is a great app, maybe the greatest of it’s kind on the market. It’s value spread from endorsements. I know it’s a paid app. But I would pay to receive great Olympic coverage. What if your app covered multiple sports in the 8-12 months leading up to the Olympics. Would’nt your audience be better served, more loyal and thrilled to tell others? Also that sounds like dollars to me too.
The general public understands that at the Olympics, we’re citizens of the world. Leads us there and we’ll thank you for it.