NBC Fail: My Olympics nightmare

Anne Penketh

For the past two weeks, as a Brit living in Washington DC, I’ve been living in a bubble called #nbcfail.

It started on the night of the Olympics opening ceremony, which NBC delayed by three hours for us viewers on the east coast in order to capture a prime time audience. I went out for the evening, naively assuming that I would be able to watch a rerun of the ceremony the next day.

By the time I switched on the TV on the Friday night, the parade of national teams was in full flow, along with the NBC commentators explaining to American viewers that Sierre Leone is a country in West Africa and that it would not be long before the US team came out.

This patronizing tosh was broken up by TV ads so seamlessly that it was hard to distinguish between the actual event and the hard sell.

The next day, having devoured the rave reviews for the ceremony, I wanted to see Daniel Craig and the Queen jumping out of a helicopter for myself. So began hours of fruitless search to find it online. Only then did I realise that NBC not only had the sole rights in the US for broadcasting the games but were even controlling access to the events after they had happened. The only solution was to watch the highlights on the NBC website, each one preceded by an ad. By the time I had finished I was ready to throw my laptop out of the window.

I was obviously not alone. The hashtag #nbcfail lost no time in trending on Twitter. Among my fellow sufferers in the #nbcfail community was former colleague Guy Adams in Los Angeles, suspended from Twitter for tweeting the (public) email address of an NBC executive. When Guy’s account was restored, he had an additional 10,000 followers. So how did that work out for you, NBC?

We were told by experts like Piers Morgan that such complaints happen every four years with each Olympic Games. But I’ve been working in the United States during past Olympics and can only remember being frustrated at their coverage of US athletes to the exclusion of everyone else. This year’s totalitarian restrictions took the biscuit.

When Usain Bolt triumphed in the 200m, I returned home to watch the (specially edited prime time) day’s events. Was his record-setting  race the top of the hour on NBCfireworks explode over the olympic stadium during the opening ceremony of the london 2012 olympic games july 27 2012 150x150 NBC Fail: My Olympics nightmare? Of course not – the victorious US women’s soccer team, and diving, came first.

Last night, the #nbcfail community was livid at the network deciding to broadcast a World War II documentary in prime time rather than the Games. Cue jokes about the tape-delay in finding out who won the war. Or that Tom Brokaw will announce it after the ads.

Finally, NBC has listened to #nbcfail. But it is 17 days too late. So spare me a thought when you are enjoying the closing ceremony on TV. I’ll be squinting into my laptop after NBC agreed to live stream the final hours.

As one of my witty new friends on #nbcfail put it: I’ll miss you when you’re gone. Let’s have another reunion in four years time.

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  • Piotr Azia

    BBC made available 25 HD channels dedicated to live coverage of the Olympics, this on top of BBC One and One HD, BBC Two and Three simulcast in HD, and occasional 3d coverage on BBC HD. Yes, the BBC was concentrating a lot on British athletes, but there was a lot of choice and NO ads. Unlike in the USA, according to all the people posting from the US.

  • Ed Kollin

    They did not even advertise that coverage of the closing ceremonies would continue on late night or there would be even a late night. The night before they said to the late night host this is your last. Even if I manage to find it online and watch The Who, Muse and Kate Bush now it would not be the same as it has been spoiled and all the context taken out.

  • Richard Stevenson

    Also as a fellow Brit in Nashville, who was denied internet streaming by Comcast because of no cable TV subscription … they still haven’t seen the irony of that one. USA first in medals, last in modern TV annals.

  • Brandon Kraft

    Actually, they were planning on losing $200M on the effort. Apparently, ads were doing better than expected and they now hope to break event.

    The kicker is they were hoping the exposure would help their regular lineup (notice how many of the ads were for NBC shows…)

  • Ian Russell
  • john m

    My brother has just moved to OZ and he reckons we are lying about having an Olympics as he saw almost no evidence on Australian TV LOL.

  • jemblue

    That’s true for every station that broadcasts sporting events. They always run promos for their regular shows. The sports is the bait they hope to use to lure viewers in.

  • jemblue

    That was the least of their problems. They didn’t even show *American* athletes performing live.

  • No Text

    NBC was dreadful. Not showing things live, screwing up the coverage, editing key parts out, etc.

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