If you have been following me at this blog or on Twitter, you would know that I was not pleased by the decisions NBC made with their Olympic coverage.
I wasn’t the only person that was upset. There was a highly followed Twitter hash tag, #NBCfail, where many people posted their frustration with the Olympics.
My concern was that Americans had been firewalled from seeing Olympic coverage from any other country. It made me realize that the people we need to fear most are not government institutions but globally connected media empires. They all worked in perfect unison to block the Internet of entire countries. Pretty scary stuff, if you ask me.
But the vast majority of complaints at the #NBCfail hash tag were about delayed coverage. From start to finish people on Twitter were upset about the coverage. And the closing ceremonies were no exception as NBC aired their new show “Animal Practice” in the middle of their closing ceremony coverage. If you wanted to watch The Who you first need to sit through “Animal Practice”.
But at the end of the day NBC says that the London Olympics was the most watched television event in US history.
That means great things for them as a network and for their advertisers.
So the conversion rate was exceptional. You couldn’t ask for more.
The question is, what do we make of the #NBCfail people?
This Mashable article (http://mashable.com/2012/08/07/nbc-win-olympics-coverage/) covers a new study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and Pew Internet & American Life Project. That study of 1000 adults reports that 76% of Olympic fans say that NBC is doing an excellent (29%) or good (47%) job covering the Summer Games. Just 18% percent rate the coverage as fair (13%) or poor (5%).
So ultimately 76% of people, according to this survey, were very happy with the Olympic coverage.
While 1000 people is a fairly small sampling of the most viewed television event in US history, I would suspect that it’s probably not that far off.
I would imagine that most people were quite happy with the Olympics coverage. They probably had no idea when things were actually being played. They probably totally missed any spoilers that NBC did. And certainly they had no idea what was going on with Twitter.
This has been NBC’s role since the beginning. It is a platform of mass communication. They have always had the goal of trying to serve the greatest number of people. And if we can believe the Pew numbers, they achieved their goal. Most people, I’m quite sure, were very happy.
Twitter is a platform of individuals uniting around a passion. In this case, the hash tag #NBCfail. They are outliers. They are people who are passionate about a specific topic. They are a minority. In fact, the #NBCfail people were probably a minority within the minority. I would not be surprised if the Pew numbers are again correct and that they are approximately 5% of the viewing audience.
Historically NBC has never been concerned with the 5%. Their goal is to reach as much of the other 95% as possible.
I would not be surprised that in the executive postmortem Olympic meetings at NBC, there is some group of executives who will proclaim that Twitter is inconsequential. They had no effect on viewership.
Declaring that position would be shortsighted, in my opinion.
If mass media executives in media companies worldwide take away that message I believe it will hurt them in the long run.
The 5% of disgruntled viewers are the advocates. They are the people who care. These people were angry because they love the Olympics. They are passionate and motivated. They have the potential energy of creating an epidemic in the mass media world.
Malcolm Gladwell makes this point very clearly in his book the “Tipping Point.”
The premise of the book is that small things can escalate into large things very quickly. He likens this to the spread of a virus in a kindergarten class. One child brings in the virus. It spreads to every other child in the class in a matter of days. (http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/)
I believe that if the knowledge media executives glean from this experience is that the social media world doesn’t matter they will likely see that it does matter in the near future.
Within the two weeks of these Olympics there was a lot of complaining but no solution by the vocal social media minority. If NBC, in future Olympic coverage, maintains the same disregard for the social media minority I believe those people will come up with a solution.
The solution is relatively simple. You get a VPN proxy to look like you are coming from a different country. I bought a month of service from boxpn (https://www.boxpn.com) to do just that. I was able to easily watch the Olympics through the BBC using this service. It costs $3.75 a month. And further, it’s not illegal. NBC’s blockade of the Olympics was not a law. It was simply a global unification of media companies.
I would not be surprised, however, if media companies do attempt to make this kind of service illegal. I would not be surprised if that is the great take away for media executives following this year’s Olympics. Make VPN proxy’s illegal.
The fact is, however, that information wants to be free. I don’t understand exactly why that is. But you see it everywhere. Information wants to get out.
If media companies in control of future Olympic coverage continue with similar strategies as NBC, I predict people in greater numbers will circumnavigate the blockades these companies put up. I also believe that these kinds of strangleholds will continue to push for stealing content in truly illegal ways.
Using peer-to-peer networks to download music, movies and TV is not easy today. I don’t believe anyone in my family would know how to do it. But if media companies continue to disregard the minority I believe the minority will make these solutions more accessible to the majority.
The 2012 Olympic #NBCfail was about people complaining. If things stay the same, the 2016 Olympic #NBCfail will be about solutions. The minority will give the majority a better solution.