NBC has taken a beating early during these 2012 London Olympics and most of it was avoidable. The backlash started when they decided not to provide any live TV coverage of the Olympics. Their thought was to funnel US viewers to sit in front of their TVs for 5 hours every night. Of the 204 countries at the Olympics, 64 (or roughly 31%) have live coverage and the United States, one of the most technologically savvy countries in the world, is not one of them. So as anyone outside of NBC’s executive suite could have predicted, there was an immediate backlash on social media.
It didn’t get much better with the opening ceremonies when the claim was made that this was the “first Twitter Olympics” even though Twitter was around during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
I personally noticed a friend of mine posted a video on Facebook that the US Olympic Swimming team created with all of them singing, dancing and…well…swimming to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”. I’d caught a few seconds of it during NBC’s telecast and wanted to check it out. So I clicked the link. I was a little surprised to find this:
So I went directly to YouTube and saw the video there. Then I noticed that NBC had posted the video to their own Olympic YouTube account a day later, albeit with comments blocked. This version also could not be shared on Facebook:
I should note that I DO live in the United States…so this shouldn’t be an issue to view or share the video. So this very innocent and silly video the US Swim Team put together and posted on their own YouTube Channel somehow became the property of NBC through some sort of Olympic osmosis? I do understand that NBC pays the International Olympic Committee billions of dollars to broadcast the Olympics, but does that entitle them to the content created by the amateur Olympic athletes or to decide where they allow it to be distributed?
Then yesterday, Guy Adams of The Independent, got his Twitter account suspended because he was complaining about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. What really got him suspended were not so much his rants and complaints about NBC, but that Adams “posted an individual’s private information.” The address he posted was Gary Zenkel’s, who is the executive in charge of NBC’s Olympic coverage. Twitter bent their own rules here since the email address is a publicly accessible email address which can be found with a simple Google search.
I say that Twitter “bent the rules” but more factually, as a co-sponsor of the Olympics they really should have steered clear of this issue. Regardless of their relationship with NBC and the Olympic coverage.
The bigger problem here is with NBC and their content strategy for the games. They are letting their ‘broadcast network’ show. They are attempting to control media surrounding the Olympics like a funnel and are not embracing what a vibrant social media audience could do to promote the brand and the Olympics themselves. In my opinion, this content strategy killed the potential virality of the US Swimming video. To date it’s had over 3 million views but has plateaued in the past couple days. Imagine if people were allowed to post it to the number one social network in the world and arguably after YouTube, where the most video content on the web is shared? Instead of 3 million views could we be talking about 12 million?
As a business whenever things don’t go according to plan, you need to listen and adapt. The way to fix it isn’t to “out PR” the masses, that’s a battle you’ll never win. You need to engage with the community at large and make people know they are heard, most of the time that’s all they are looking for anyway. Your lack of live coverage had a flaw. Acknowledge it. Instead NBC is left doing damage control and taking a hit on their brand for their failure to let the Olympics just be the spectacle that it is.