Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#NBCFail trending

Watching the Olympics has been highly frustrating. We sat last night watching an empty-headed and boring "Access Hollywood from London" show at 7 pm waiting for NBC to eventually show the big events of the day, especially the women's gymnastics. Then there was a pointless local NBC Olympic show at 7.30. Main coverage did not start until 8, pushing events later and later into the night.

G waited so long for that she fell asleep at 10.30 pm on the sofa and missed the gymnastics. She is not happy.

Why would NBC do this? The Atlantic has an explanation:

The easiest way to understand why NBC wants to force you to watch the Olympics in prime time is to stop thinking about what audiences want and start thinking about advertisers want. NBC paid about $1.2 billion for the rights to broadcast these games. To make back most of that money, NBC needs to sell extremely expensive commercials. The most valuable commercials aren't sold online to be viewed on browser tabs on 12-inch display screens. They're sold on prime time TV. So NBC has a clear interest in funneling our Olympic attention into the prime-time TV slot.

And it seems to be working in terms of viewing figures so far, which are setting records.

But it is very shortsighted. We are actually mad at the advertisers who are taking these slots and facilitating NBC spoiling things.

And there are longer term consequences. We didn't DVR the coverage because we actually cut the cord altogether with Time Warner Cable a few weeks ago. We found that we could get all the basic channels in beautiful HD with a $30 antenna which sits behind the plasma tv. Netflix and Hulu and ITunes take care of our other watching needs, and we save $80 or $90 a month.

What also motivated us, though, was years of rotten service from Time Warner, all those times we were held on the phone for half an hour and going through endless menus and endless waits for cable technicians. TWC had built up serious hostility in us, which wasn't allayed by slightly better service in the last 2-3 years. When we had a realistic chance to go, we bolted. They offered us $5 off for six months to stay, oblivious to the fact we didn't need them at all any more and their business model is past its sell-by date.

We haven't regretted it for a minute, either.

So NBC is now choosing to frustrate and alienate much of its viewing base through this extreme time shifting. This is going to come back and haunt them. It isn't the 1980s any more, says G.

Some blame belongs to the IOC as well, for greedily charging US viewers so much. NBC overbid for the rights, and so has to scramble and alienate its audience.

There will be a counterreaction. There is now a massive commercial opportunity for someone to mainstream for non-techies getting an Internet point of presence in another country - and so get around territorial restrictions. You would just show up as a UK node, in the same way Vonage will sell you a UK phone number for $5 a month.

You won't be able to bid for US broadcast rights because people in the US will just watch it live on CTV out of Toronto, or the BBC out of the UK, or even the broadcast from Singapore or Norway. And then what is big TV going to do? Sue people for evading its territorial rights? That kind of thing has worked out so well for the music industry, after all.

Big music thought it could get away with vastly overcharging for CDs in the 1980s. It showed commercial hubris, and people found a way around it.

If you abuse segmentation of the market, you're going to lose segmentation of the market. And it isn't as if NBC is adding much value to the feed itself.

They've destroyed a separate US market for the rights in the long term.


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