5 Ways NBC Ruined the London Olympics for Everyone

The London 2012 Olympics started last Friday with exclusive coverage rights given to NBC for US viewers.  Since they’re the only broadcaster legally allowed to show what’s happening during the event, you’d think that they’d be focused on showing what’s happening during the event, right? The answer is a big, fat “NO”.

Why, you ask?  Well, if you haven’t been tuning in, then you have no clue that most of the programming shown on NBC’s coverage is advertisements.  And if you search for the live stream coverage, you’ll just be pissed off with stuttering videos, clips taking too long to buffer, or videos that won’t load at all.  And if you find videos on YouTube, you won’t likely find it again as many are being pulled, replaced with this message: “This video contains content from International Olympic Committee, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”

So where did NBC go wrong?  They screwed up a lot of things.  Here are the Top 5 Ways NBC ruined their Olympics coverage.

Too many ads

Yes, we know ads earn them money and without ads we won’t be able to watch anything for free, but seriously?  In a full minute, you’d see more ads than what’s actually happening during the Games.  NBC cut parts of the Game coverage just so they can show ads. The worst part is, even recaps of the Games are ad-packed, replaced with clips of Ryan Seacrest promos.   It’s just frustrating.

Live streaming debacle

A lot of Olympic enthusiasts were irked that NBC’s live streaming turned out to be a waste of time, but NBC stated that people’s devices are to blame.  According to Rick Cordella, vice president and general manager of NBC Sports Digital Media, extensive troubleshooting suggests that the technical problems might be related to the bandwidth provided by cable operators, or users’ computers or devices.  They also stated that before the Games began, they’d already told people that they can view the live stream via nbcolympics.com just by loggin in with their cable, satellite or telephone company user name and password.  But they forgot to inform viewers that their devices might not be able to play the live stream videos.  If NBC already knew about the incompatibilities, they should have made a test live stream broadcast and turned to users for feedback so all of these live stream issues could’ve been avoided.

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Spoiler alert!

Instead of giving viewers a live Olympics broadcast, NBC decided to tape-delay certain events of the Game.  As in, viewers had to watch certain parts hours after it already happened.  Nothing’s really wrong with that unless you give out result spoilers.  And that’s exactly what NBC did.  The Michael Phelps – Ryan Lochte 400-meter individual medley showdown was tape-delayed but NBC Nightly News announced the result of the match even before the tape-delayed broadcast was aired.  Of course viewers were pissed and voiced their concerns on Twitter. (Look for the hashtags #nbcfail and #nbcsucks to get a feel of what people are saying about the NBC coverage.)

Geography, social studies and ethics fail

People all over the world pronounce words differently but we often laugh, cringe, or even roll our eyes at people who pronounce things differently from what is socially accepted.  But when you’re a broadcasting company and your host fail to properly pronounce Olympians names, that’s just sad.  What’s more irritating is when broadcasters make fun names, as  NBC’s The Today Show’s host, Matt Lauer, said: “Djibouti’s name sounds funny!”   Then they commented that Luxembourg was “a small central European country.”  FYI NBC, Luxembourg is in western Europe, not central.

Talking too much

Viewers want to know what’s happening at the Olympics that’s why they’re watching NBC’s coverage, but that doesn’t mean they want to hear the broadcasters’ never-ending comments that are oftentimes unrelated to what’s happening.  And if they kept their mouths shut most of the time then perhaps they would’ve avoided making stupid and useless commentary.  Take Meredith Vieira for instance, who commented, “If you haven’t heard of him, we haven’t either,”  pertaining to Tim Berners-Lee –  the inventor of the world wide web, which the two appears to know nothing about.   Comments like those should’ve have been edited and it questions their credibility as a news source.

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If you have more #nbcfail or #nbcsucks comments, or you just want to share your experience watching NBC’s coverage, good or bad, feel free to leave a comment below.  And if you want to decent Olympics coverage, the Canadians have opened their doors for viewers, click here.  Or you can watch the coverage here.

Mellisa Tolentino

Staff Writer at SiliconANGLE
Mellisa Tolentino started at SiliconANGLE covering the mobile and social scene. Over the years, her scope expanded to Bitcoin as well as the Internet of Things. SiliconANGLE gave Mellisa her break in writing and it has been an adventure ever since. She’s from the sunny country of Philippines where people always greet you with the warmest smile. If she’s not busy writing, she loves reading, watching TV series and movies, but what she enjoys the most is playing or just chilling on the couch with with her three dogs Ceecee, Ginger, and Rocky.


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  1. I agree with most of Mellisa’s article, but I’ve had good luck watching the live streaming from NBC Live Extra on my Nexus 7 tablet.


  2. I don’t know about iOS users, but Android users can get pretty decent streams of individual events commercial free with the official Olympics app (sponsored by Samsung and Citi, I think.).

  3. Lets not blame NBC for people being cheap and buying low-end devices and low-bandwidth packages from their ISP. $5 a month extra for an Optimum Boost is great for the Olympics, Hulu, Netflix, or anything else you want to watch. Don’t blame NBC because you’re cheap. 

  4.  @thedigitalhobo Really? In South Korea, if you rent a hotel room, you get fifty gigabits down. Gratis. You’ll see similar speeds in Japan, as well as northern Europe. USA is at the near the bottom of the pack of civilized countries for broadband speeds.
    The whole reason that the Google Fiber announcement in KC made mainstream headlines in a crowded news cycle was because to offer a gigabit down to the house for half a C-Note is unheard of.
    Try ordering that package from your service provider and see how much it costs you.
    You picked a really bad point to quibble over.

  5. At the risk of getting skewered for not being in line with the rest of the tech-inspired world, I’m already sick of people piling on NBC for how they’re presenting these Games.
    I’m sure NBC’s heavily market-researched coverage tell them that Americans like their “stories,” and the network needs as many eyeballs pointed at those stories as they can get in primetime, in vain hopes that they can make back the billions in broadcast rights they’ve spent.
    As far as finding and watching the events online, I haven’t had any significant problems doing just that, both on web browsers and iOS devices. Yeah, sometimes the video takes a bit to buffer, but guess what? Streaming video does that, even on my residential 20 down/6 up Comcast account. GET OVER IT.
    (And don’t get me started on the whole “it’s the Internet era, show everything live for free” nonsense that prevailed this weekend, and that’s showing up from every tech news bloviator who came into work today. They’re betraying their utter lack of knowledge about the political, financial and technical complexity covering something like this entails.)
    I’m OK with tape-delayed versions of events that happened hours before, given the proper context and storytelling opportunity. Yesterday morning, I caught the medal ceremony for the women’s 3M springboard synchronized diving event, in which the American team took silver. When NBC’s 30-minute package on the event came on later that night, I watched every second of it, even though I knew who placed where hours before. Because they told the story well.
    Are there things the Peacock network could do better? Sure…like never hiring Ryan Seacrest in the first place. But the overdeveloped sense of entitlement that digitally connected viewers have right now is bordering on ridiculous after three days, and will be exceptionally grating after two weeks. We’ve got 99 #firstworldproblems, but really, the Olympics ain’t one.

  6.  @lucastypes What you view as entitlement, I view as being critical in a lack of pride in their work. 
    Lucas, you know I do this for a living (“this” meaning broadcast).
    If you’re going to drop billions in licensing, as you say, and then brand-mortgage it to the hilt, as they’ve done, then perhaps paying a little attention to the user experience would be a wise thing.
    Since you’re fond of stories and examples, let me give you one: I wasn’t able to watch US men’s sabre fencing semi-finals last night. Why? Because the engineer on the switcher was asleep at the wheel, and broadcast a full hour and forty five minutes of the wrong camera. You can find this stream available on the web. Still. 
    They spent billions on the rights, and then couldn’t be bothered to exercise them?
    Face it: NBC is clown-shoes on their broadcast this year, and there’s a difference between entitlement, and disgust at them doing a crappy job.

  7.  @rizzn  Mark, I know *you* do this for a living…but so many others who are blowing up the Twittersphere do not. And their lack of understanding on the process shows.
    NBC people aren’t on the switch for every single event, that’s the IOC’s bailiwick. NBC just has the broadcast rights for the U.S. (and maybe Mexico, too, through Univision, but don’t quote me on that.)
    And again to the complexity of the event, Saturday night as NBC was transitioning into their “late-night” coverage, they mentioned at as of that point (11:30pm CDT), they were beginning their 67th hour of live coverage from THAT DAY. Mistakes are gonna get made…yes, even for 105 minutes at an event with more than a half-dozen live feeds going off at the same time. (Seriously…how many fencing feeds were there at any given point? I lost count…)
    Is it as easy as point-and-click and watch whatever event you want at that moment? No. You have to work for it a little bit. I was trying to follow the US men’s gymnastic team as they worked their way through the various events this morning, and while you could see their scores, there wasn’t any context for how they were doing in comparison to the other teams (at least on the individual apparatus feeds; maybe on the main feed.) I’m sure I’ll see how they fared before NBC gets around to showing it tonight, but that’s fine. It’s not going to affect my enjoyment of the story being told.
    And anybody who’s allowing hearing the results affect being moved by world-class athletes competing at the pinnacle of their sport has probably also allowed a hangnail to keep them from going into work of a morning.

  8. While watching the opening ceremonies even I commented that Matt Lauer was saying the most stupid things.  So I don’t need to jump on any bandwagon.  The coverage from the beginning has sucked.  The commentators have been mean and super critical. WTH

  9. I thought I was being a little critical but I guess I am right, tooooo much commercial, too much talking. 
    Waiting to see the swimming, not allowing children to really see the actual swimming or diving, children love the Olympics but they are geared to adults  and really not well. 


  11. Watch out or Jesus Lauer will have you removed from his butt kissing detail.

  12.  @rizzn my tweet was about the actual cable channel, which never came in clearly throughout the entire olympics. not the stream.

  13.  @rizzn Just getting back to this. Sorry for rehashing an old post. My point was that many of the problems being blamed on bandwidth aren’t bandwidth related, but rather the quality of the device. And in high-density population areas, the $5 a month for additional bandwidth is probably worth it for serious video consumers. But there were probably a ton of people who didn’t have the hardware to support a high quality viewing experience. Gigabit ethernet ports, video cards, current processors, etc. It may have been a nit-picky point, but I wanted to clarify it nonetheless.

  14.  @rizzn this comment was referring to the cable channel, on Cablevision IO, not the stream. I had to resort to watching the stream of an event rather than watching the HD broadcast on cable. Never was fixed. But it was related to cable tv, not internet.

  15.  @rizzn but you are 110% right. US broadband sucks compared to the rest of the world. I just didn’t think that was the point of the article or my quibble.  Great article overall, though.

  16. 5 Ways NBC Ruined the London Olympics for Everyone | SiliconANGLE. A wally article will widen one’s horizon because the article is true, make us move and laugh. When I saw this article, I deem I can gains these.

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