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NBC drops The Torch!?!

Posted by bryan on August 5, 2008 in E-Business with 1 Comment

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Olympics on NBC

Olympics on NBC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NBC, who has secured exclusive US broadcast rights to the world’s biggest Athletic Competition may very well drop The Torch with this year’s Summer Olympic coverage.

NBC owns the exclusive U.S. media rights

That is what several leading analysts and marketers have been warning of, and the warnings are certainly not without merit. Some of the chief concerns are very significant indeed:

– China’s lack of respect for the copyright (may cheapen NBC’s exclusive coverage deal)

– Increasing pervasiveness of cheap electronics (think of a nation of several million personal video cameras)

– Rising Connectedness of the nation (the nation now has more internet users than the US and Canada combined)

– Use of Mobile technologies on the rise (not to mention most mobiles also come equipped with video cameras)

– Time difference between live events and the times they are broadcasted in North America (thanks to NBC’s policy to time-shift and delay events until Prime Time)

– Expectations for latest coverage and up-to-date information

– “What I Want, WHEN I Want It” attitude that IPTV and VOD online and mobile video has been creating worldwide

-Chinese internet users are already well-accustomed to existing IPTV and online video offerings from Youku , Tudou to Baidu and desktop P2P client PPLive (which has been used in the past to stream important events such as the annual New Year’s Spring Festival)

– Large demand on NBCU servers may far outweigh their bandwidth capabilities, even when considering any failsafes they have in place… ALOT of people will be accessing in and navigating out sporadically, and the high network contention related with all the connections could even bring the games to a screeching halt

– Failure to plan for the culture differences between North American and Asian viewing habits or offering viable Mobile and Online streaming options will see them missing out on expanding viewership beyond America’s borders (in fact, even American Expats living abroad will most likely choose to tune in on local networks’ broadcasts and websites rather than NBC’s)

– Seriously, they want numbers and they decided to “not plan coverage of judo, sailing, or taekwondo on any of its networks”?

  • Sailing well maybe I could see that being a niche, but it can still be an exciting event and deserves at least some coverage
  • Judo has millions of practitioners and fans worldwide, and repeatedly pulls in big viewership numbers in Russia, Japan, Korea, China and several European countries
  • Taekwondo likewise draws strong viewership across Asia and Europe (and through their representative demographics in America)



These factors will almost certainly fragment Olympic viewership in China, and will also likely affect the audience here in North America. Add to this the clear desire for each athlete’s fan base to create unique support communities around their favorite athlete, and you can clearly see that the NBC Omlympic coverage leaves much to be desired. The lack of breadth and depth in terms of diversity of coverage is also apparent. The copyright and online streaming issue, especially, could be a significant “hurdle” for NBCU to conquer. NewTeeVee has been reporting on these problems while discussing “The Official Olympics Video Player” and how “Online Video (will be) an Olympic Feat for NBC”. jkOnTheRun also covers the issue of circumventing the licensed broadcasters in “5 ways to watch the games“.


A simple case study reveals that NBCU, through their official Olympic website at is simply not ready to treat the Olympics with the unbiased universal coverage that it deserves. Browsing the front page you will quickly understand how the statistics and “latest news” feeds skew American. Of the featured athletes, at the time of this writing, only 2 were from a country other than the United States (and one was the Chinese-born American NBA star Yao Ming):


Furthermore, when you browse through “All Athletes” you are bombarded with more pro-American coverage, and the few athletes making the ranks on the first few pages are not treated with a very complete Bio or information.


For example, compare UK Sailing favorite Paul Goodison’s page on the NBColmpyics site


To his personal website at:


To his sponsor’s video diary pages for him.


Neither of which are linked to, for the convenience of his fans or supporters, and the poor coverage he receives on NBC seems to show that despite the multi-million dollars invested in this year’s games, they really haven’t put much effort into the most important aspect of the games, the Athletes, and are indeed poised to drop the Olympic torch.


Here’s an interesting exchange on the Revision3 forums (Revision3 recently made headlines when it declared that “NBC had exclusive broadcast/streaming rights to the Olympics”, when it fact it meant in the US of A not globally. This sums up the global sentiment nicely, I believe:

Originally Posted by tokenuser View Post

I live in the US, and despise the coverage you get.

I am an Aussie, and was back in Australia for the opening of the 2000 Olympics, but back in California before the closing, so got to see the Australian Olympic coverage AND the US Olympic coverage.

The difference? The Australian coverage showed all sports. Didn’t matter if an australian was competing or not. The didn’t show “athelete profiles” while the final race of an event no American was competing on was running.

The US might have raised the bar in terms of sports coverage, but the bias stinks. At least with NBC having multiple stations, we might get events on one station that aren’t shown on another – even if it is SD vs HD.”


Oh – and in case you didn’t guess it, the world does in fact cease to exist if it is not in the continental US (no love for Alaska or Hawaii either), and unless world news coverage involves an American, or an American company/person overseas … it wont get coverage. Thankfully we get the BBC World News Service to balance things out just a little.

To be fair, networks know that Americans don’t give a shit about sports we’re not playing in. The ratings prove it. The networks probably wouldn’t have to focus on Americans if baseball wasn’t nearing the playoffs and the NFL wasn’t getting underway. For far too many, the Olympics is like political party conventions. It’s just something else that screws with our favorite show’s schedule every four years.


In the end, it appears that P2P citizens’ journalism coverage of everything from local daily community bulletins to big ticket events such as the Olympics will eventually take over, this author just hopes its sooner rather than later!





UPDATE 2008-08-16:

Well the Olympics have wrapped up and its time to count the numbers. Sure enough, the torch was at least partially dropped. According to Nielsen, interestingly enough the final two days’ viewership hit a low as they “became the lowest rating for a primetime telecast since the 1988 Summer Olympics”. See wikipedia’s Ratings summary section. In addition, the Olympic committee’s own Global Television and Online Media Report states that “In the USA, offered more than 2,000 hours of live coverage with simultaneous streams, with 72 million streams in to tal consumed (compared to 680 hours on TV). ”

The point here being that 21 million was nearly as much as NBC’s 30 million viewers during peak primetime TV broadcasts, yet I suspect I high-bounce rate due to the fact that the IOC also reported “The site with the highest unique reach was with 153 million unique users having watched a live broadcast, 47.3 million higher than the highest official Olympic site (the one commissioned/operated by the IOC), which attained a unique reach of 105.7 million”.

The report also highlighted the importance of the online and mobile presence as well as the power of social media, stating that “Beijing 2008 was termed as the first truly digital Games with a worldwide offering of the Olympic Games being broadcast on internet and mobile platforms” and “IOC’s official YouTube channel ( ijing2008) received 21 million video views during Games time with 40% of traffic coming from India and South Korea with the channel open only for 78 territories in Africa, Asia and the Middle East”.

So it looks like NBC can learn a thing or two from CCTV (who admittedly has tried to follow the Western and later American model NBC helped define, only to now surpass it) and even the IOC whose sepcialty is in organizing and running sporting events not broadcasting or online/mobile streaming.


UPDATE 2012-08-01:

So why does NBC keep getting the Olympics? It was all about the money then.

UPDATE 2014-07-25:

And its all about the money now. Also worth noting that last year Conan O’Brien pointed out the fact that CCTV shows are ripping off American shows which has been pointed out quite a bit lately.



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BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money

The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:

1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.

2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.

3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.

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