Monday, August 8, 2016

#nbcfail NOT - The only Olympic number that matters (and no, it's not viewership or digital downloads)

There are a certain vocal number of people, me included, who do not care at all for the way that NBC covers the Olympics in the United States. As Dave Barry noted as far back as 1996, NBC concentrates on tape-delayed snippets of Olympic activity featuring Americans.

Tape delays, restriction of GIF posting, and other things have caused The Pundits to declare NBC and the International Olympic Committee brain dead anachronisms that will be swept away by kewl social media stuff that bypasses the tired old bla bla bla.

The network's coverage of the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro was typically clueless and counterintuitive, cutting away to a commercial every few minutes, inserting "expert" commentary in a window in the lower left-hand corner, and interrupting the spectacle to show us images of U.S. athletes preparing to enter next-door for the Parade of Nations (as if we didn't already know that we were going to see American athletes if we stuck around). The entire thing was delayed, as is tradition whenever the Games appear in another time zone — an increasingly ridiculous practice in the age of social media, which makes it possible to at least partially follow events live, even if television does not deign to cover them that way.

However, people who pursue this line of thinking are confused about NBC's true customers. They somehow have the impression that viewers matter to television networks. They don't. Old stodgy NBC is just like newfangled Google/Alphabet in one important respect - NBC's customers are not the people who turn on the TV and watch NBC's show offerings. NBC's customers are the ADVERTISERS that pay for the eyeballs of the people who turn on the TV.

Thus, NBC doesn't care about number of viewers or number of Facebook likes. NBC cares about profits. And guess what? NBC has been. and will be, profitable.

NBC paid the IOC nearly $1.23 billion for the rights to televise these games. For that money, the IOC will do whatever NBC wants.

Meanwhile, advertisers have lined up and bought ads to the games - and are especially anxious to buy prime time ads. And despite naysayers such as myself that think that NBC's Olympics aren't worth watching, there are apparently many people who think the Olympics are worth watching. Even before the Olympics began, NBC had sold $1.2 billion of advertisements, which is actually faster than the ads are usually sold. With another couple of weeks of selling ads, NBC will realize a tidy profit - possibly higher than the $120 million they made in 2012.

And that final profit is the ONLY number that NBC cares about.

For NBC to shatter that profit margin, they'd have to do something extremely drastic that would cause advertisers to pull out - like they did for the Republican National Convention. And I don't think that NBC is about to name Donald Trump as Chairman of the Board. (Although a fake announcement to that effect would be a good prank to pull on Rachel Maddow.)
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