For most of the world, the Olympics has been a wonderful live sporting event. For the United States, it has mostly been enjoyed via the wonders of tape delay. I personally use a mix of Japanese television streaming and NBC live streaming to try and watch most of the events on the internet, but that came to a stop today as the NBC online stream pretty much died right as the men’s 100 meter final was about to take place. Some were thinking that NBC didn’t want to show the live event, so everyone would have to tune in to the tape-delayed coverage in the evening.
So here I sit in front of the TV waiting to watch the men’s 100 meters (which I will not say what happens for those who don’t know the result). In fact, some metrics are claiming that around 2 billion people worldwide viewed the men’s 100 meter final live. This article discusses the viewership (Spoiler alert: it tells you who wins the 100 meters) and how NBC denied the ability to watch the moment live in the U.S. This would normally seem to make the Olympics less desirable for viewers, as the Uncertainty of Outcome hypothesis notes that for a match where fans can easily predict the outcome, fans will be less likely to attend that match. NBC researchers seem to be finding the exact opposite of this, saying that viewers who know what is going to happen have been more likely to tune into the Olympics. I think that they may just be capturing those fans who would watch the Olympics no matter what, and are checking the outcome of matches before hand because they want to know what happens, as it happens. It is also likely, that because the NBC has been heavily editing programming to show Americans winning, that Americans are more likely to tune in because they really are nationalistic and want to see the U.S. win those golds! NBC has been crafty though, they heavily edited the women’s gymnastic team finals in the U.S., removing an early fall and mistakes by the Russians to make it look like the competition was neck and neck. This despite the fact that the U.S. jumped to an early lead and really had no trouble winning the gold for the women’s teams gymnastics. NBC went as far as to not show point standings throughout the telecast in order to give the sense of drama. In some sense, even though their research shows uncertainty of outcome might not matter, they are still trying to create it… even when it doesn’t exist.
Also, the Olympics do not really compete with any noteworthy programming at this time of year, so it is a good time to be NBC. In the previous cycle it was said that NBC potentially lost around $200 million in revenue on the Olympics. The chairman of NBC noted that there is a chance that the Olympics this cycle might make a profit, as the ratings and ad revenue from the Olympics has been very strong. NBC is really trying all they can do to get viewers and make money, but some will still be very unhappy about the tape delay and jingoistic coverage of the Olympics. If you want examples, just head to deadspin or go to twitter and type “NBCFail”. The number of people using this hashtag is staggering.