Three Things NBC and the Olympics Reminded Us About Content

Photo credit: Brian Godfrey

Photo credit: Brian Godfrey

I’m a guy who genuinely enjoys the Olympics. When you combine a few sports I know well with several sports I know absolutely nothing about – and then roll it all up with fierce competition and patriotic undertones…count me in 11 out of 10 times.

Unfortunately not everyone feels the same, and it showed with the TV ratings from the Rio Olympics – down 17 percent from the 2012 London games. A major part of the problem, it seems, was tape delayed programming and the subsequent social media spoilers. NBC’s approach to Olympic coverage in Rio reminded us of three very important things that hold true across the board when it comes to content: 

1) Consumers are used to getting what they want, when they want it. If you have a good product, don’t withhold it from your biggest advocates (fans). NBC had Olympic video clips on lock down (clearly the most popular form of Olympic content…we want to SEE VIDEO of Michael Phelps beating Chad le Clos, not read about the finish) – taking/threatening legal action against pretty much anyone who posted a non-NBC Sports video clip of the Olympics on social networks. We consume content on social networks. It’s the reason social media exists – news, information, videos, etc. NBC missed a huge opportunity by not making content available where a large portion of their audience is active.

2) We live in an age of instant information – time zones and social media don’t mix. While we were forced to wait to watch the games we wanted to see, tape delayed, on NBC, we also had to “go dark” on social networks in the hours leading up to said coverage to avoid spoilers from our East Coast friends on Twitter. And it’s wasn’t just Twitter. While watching the beach volleyball semifinal on tape-delayed television I was alerted – by a Wikipedia article of all places – that the U.S. team would be playing for bronze the next day. Always assume your content will be shared on social networks in real time, and understand what implications that might have on your own marketing plans.

3) Bite-sized, sharable content is good content. Despite the two major flubs listed above, NBC did a very good job of taking Olympic moments and turning them into short, interesting and sharable videos. Once the events were complete, there was no shortage of content from the NBC Olympics’ social platforms. Nearly every memorable moment from Team USA was put into a format that could be easily viewed and shared on social networks, easily heightening visibility and the amount of online conversations.

Its understandable to want to control an online conversation (particularly when you’ve spent a truck load of money on the content), but know that in doing so you run the risk of simply turning off potential customers. In NBC’s case, the result was a 17 percent decline in viewership.

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