The Olympics Are a Lab to NBC, Making Us the Rats

I felt bad this weekend that I had been crushing NBC's coverage of the Olympics in print, on air and to anyone who was within a three-table reach at the restaurant I went to on Friday when the topic arose. The talent has been pretty good, so I tried to write a nice piece about the Olympic commentators, and by proxy, NBC for hiring them. ↵

↵Little did I know that everyone else started to feel the same way about bashing NBC. It just gets old writing the same thing every single day for two weeks – show events live, don't ignore the West Coast, stop disrespecting hockey – and if you're charged with writing about the Olympics coverage, at some point it will end up being positive. ↵

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↵How wrong we were. We're totally letting the Peacock off the hook, and it's exactly what they expected. The New York Times has a story today about how the Internet has become the new water cooler, in that fans of certain shows – particularly large events like award shows and, yes, the Olympics – congregate on Twitter and Facebook to feel like they're watching the event together. It's all a whole "shared experience" situation, it seems. ↵

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↵In that story, the NYT mentions that NBC showed the Golden Globes live for the first time on both coasts this year, and they reportedly want to do the same for the Emmys as well. So why is that okay for award shows, but not for sports? To that point: ↵

↵
↵⇥“People want to have something to share,” Alan Wurtzel, the head of research for NBC Universal, said from Vancouver. He said the effects of online conversations were “important for all big event programming, and also, honestly, for all of television going forward.” ↵⇥

↵⇥For Mr. Wurtzel, the Olympics are a lab, and so far he said he has found that people who follow the Olympics both on TV and online wind up being heavier viewers of television. ↵⇥

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↵Now, let's be clear: the word "lab" was from Brian Stelter of the NYT's and not Wurtzel directly, but the point is still germane. NBC is using us as lab rats. The buzz on Twitter and Facebook during the day is just creating more of an interest in their telecast that night. In fact, the story quotes more than one person who specifically states that they were excited to see an event on TV after hearing how the U.S. Olympian fared through different social media channels. ↵

↵So to recap: Twitter helps TV, so does Facebook, we love to share experiences with each other online to make us feel like we have friends and NBC is going to continue to show athletes winning gold medals on tape delay – though not actors and actresses winning gold trophies – because online interest drives ratings. ↵

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↵Rats. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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