Monday, May 3, 2010

Reinforcing perceptions - how the #nbcsucks and #nbcfail hashtags live on

I just visited my nbcsucks FriendFeed room for the first time in a while. The room, originally created during the 2010 Winter Olympics, was designed to contrast the @nbcolympics Twitter feed against the Twitter feeds of those who thought that NBC's Olympic coverage was less than stellar. The latter were easily identified by searching for use of the Twitter hashtags #nbcfail and #nbcsucks.

I pretty much created the room to track Olympics stuff, and figured that after the Olympics were over, the use of the #nbcfail and #nbcsucks hashtags would pretty much die away. Bob Costas would go back to pontificating about other stuff, and people such as me would lose interest in the hashtags and go back to talking about Foursquare or whatever.

As Jim Bakker would say, I was wrong about #nbcfail and #nbcsucks hashtag use. In my visit to my FriendFeed room, I found that the hashtags were very much alive.

You see, NBC apparently had the rights to televise the 2010 Kentucky Derby, which happens to be another infrequent event that attracts a large casual audience. And apparently NBC, in attempting to cater to this large audience, ended up doing things that alienated the core sports fan. Sound familiar?

Apparently, NBC's idea of televising the Kentucky Derby is to ignore...well, to ignore the horses. Or at least that's what the tweets imply. Jeff May:

remember when the kentucky derby coverage on nbc was just about the race and really well done?? what's this top chief bullshit? #NBCFail

Technically I could address a spelling flame to May, but at least his heart was in the right place. Todd Noonan continues the Top Chef theme:

I raced home to watch the Kentucky Derby and it's Al Roker cooking with two losers from Top Chef in a segment taped yesterday? #NBCFail #fb

And when NBC wasn't showing chefs, they were showing celebs - celebrity people, not celebrity horses. Horse Belle wasn't pleased:

NBC's KDerby coverage = hats, foods, drinks, celebs...hey...what about the horses? #NBCFail #KYDerby

And neither was Heide Kolb:

#KYDerby who cares abt all that celebrity crap, I want 2 see horses & races! #NBCfail

In fact, one person (Alex Brown) became really desperate to see a horse:

cool, commercial break. maybe there will be an advertisment that includes a horse ? #KYDerby

(In case you're wondering how that tweet got into the feed, Jen Baker retweeted it with the hashtag.)

But there is a valid question - was NBC's Kentucky Derby coverage truly bad, or did people approach the broadcast with a preconceived notion that NBC's Kentucky Derby coverage would be bad, and then isolated Top Chef and other episodes to reinforce that belief? Certainly this has happened before, and people have taken subsequent events to reinforce a previous belief. Just ask Dan Quayle or Joe Biden.

And before you blame NBC for all of the ills, note that the Kentucky Derby itself was eager to expand Derby coverage to a new audience.

Carter, who had moved to Roanoke from Louisville, said that to drum up interest, he held a party, borrowed a satellite truck and downloaded a Louisville station's coverage so his colleagues could see what they were missing.

"The ratings there were nothing," Carter recalled. "I think it did 5 or 6 ratings points. Outside of Kentucky and a couple of other horse-racing communities, it does OK, but certainly here, it still has Super Bowl status."

Churchill Downs is looking to improve that status here and nationally by expanding the appeal of the Oaks.

"On Kentucky Oaks Day, we have an on-track crowd that is traditionally around 100,000 people," Rogers said. "How many other sporting events draw 100,000 people, and no one's ever heard of it?"

Last year, the track partnered with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and raised money for breast cancer research. The move drove media coverage and helped the track strike a deal to air the Oaks on the NBC-owned Bravo cable network, Rogers said. That partnership will continue this year with Bravo airing the race from 5 to 6 p.m.

"The Derby is the Derby," Rogers said. "But we want to incorporate all that on to Kentucky Oaks Day as well and have a giant two-day event."

And there was certainly advance notice about the Top Chef participation:

NEW YORK, NY – April 26, 2010 – Bravo celebrates the Kentucky Derby with the second annual “Ladies First: Bravo at the Kentucky Derby” special live from Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY., airing on Friday, April 30 at 5 p.m. ET/PT. This one-hour special, produced by NBC Sports and hosted by Bravo’s Andy Cohen, celebrates the very best in food, fashion and the celebrity experience associated with the 136th running of the Kentucky Oaks. Dina Manzo from ‘The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” and Jeff Lewis and Jenni Pulos from “Flipping Out” join Cohen to celebrate a day for women and to give viewers a history on the fashion and festivities before and after the Oaks race. Isaac Mizrahi, renowned designer and host of Bravo’s “The Fashion Show” will dress “Today” show correspondent Natalie Morales for the festivities, and “Top Chef” stars Michael Voltaggio, Jennifer Carroll and Eli Kirshtein will be cooking from the Infield Club.

However, the press release didn't mention that some of the Friday stuff would be repeated on Saturday.

Then again, when the actual event is only two minutes long, you have to show SOMETHING while you're waiting, I guess. I'm sure that the true sports purists would insist that NBC's coverage only last for two minutes, but where are you going to put the commercials?
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