Although the opening ceremony marked the most ratings in Olympic history, NBC still felt some heat for airing it 3 hours later. Over 40 million people watched the ceremony in the United States, up 8 million from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and 6 million from the Beijing ceremony. The average number of US viewers for the first night of Olympic competition was also the highest in history at 28.7 million, over 2 million more than the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. But NBC had no time to celebrate these Olympic ratings, for the complaints came pouring in faster than Usain Bolt.
A five hour time difference and abundance in social media does not bode well for US viewers. Which is easier: wait until prime time to find out who won the Lochte/Phelps race, or type in one word on Google and find out in 0.18 seconds? NBC is betting that we’ll do both. Chairman of NBC Sports Group Mark Lazarus said, “The audience number for the London opening ceremony is a great early sign our strategy of driving people to watch NBC in prime time is working.” With the time difference, NBC has the power. And lucky for them, there won’t be any live events during prime time (midnight in London), so they can air whatever they’d like whenever they’d like.
The opening ceremony was just the beginning of the US being left in the dark, pretty ironic since a great focus during the event was social media. So much so that Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, tweeted live during the ceremony. At least live to those in London time. By the time the US read it, the tweet had ‘3h’ next to it. So why wouldn’t NBC show the ceremony live and again during prime time? Well, the number of viewers would have been cut in half, for one. NBC knew that finding a live stream of the opening ceremony would be nearly impossible due to the strict copyright laws of the IOC. Viewers had one option and over 40 million people took it.
Some are okay with spoilers, some are not. But with over 5 million social media comments from the opening ceremony alone, we better get used to them. If you can’t, lighten up with a new parody Twitter account that garnered almost 16,000 followers in 18 hours: @NBCDelayed. They won’t ruin a thing, at least not from the 2012 Olympics.
What are your favorite Olympic events to watch? Are you following live updates online or waiting for NBC’s prime time coverage?