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Rio Ratings: NBC’s “Nightmare Come True”

Rio Ratings: NBC’s “Nightmare Come True”

After saying goodbye to the Rio Olympics, NBC released statements of disappointment after newly released numbers showed ratings to be down 25% from the London Olympics among 18 to 49 year olds. After paying $12 billion dollars to host the Olympic games until 2032, NBC CEO Stephen B. Burke labeled the games to be a “nightmare come true” for the network. So what happened? The games had plenty of big names such as Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Simone Biles, so what went wrong? Burke claims that he anticipated decreased ratings, even stating “[M]y prediction would be that millennials had been in a Facebook bubble or a Snapchat bubble and the Olympics have come, and they didn’t know it.” This posed many questions about why the Rio Olympics saw such low numbers. Is there something NBC did to scare off the Millennials? Are the Olympics just not as interesting anymore? Do the youth of today have no pride in their country?

It turns out it’s none of those things. When it comes down to it, NBC failed to understand the new age of media.

Let’s take a look at a few things NBC missed when it came to airing the Rio Olympics.

  1. Delayed airings of events

If there’s anything we know about today’s society, it is that patience is a rare virtue. We have grown more accustomed to receiving news instantaneously. As time and technology progress, it seems almost archaic to wait for weekly TV programs, 7-10 business day shipping, or even picking up the phone instead of just shooting out a text. NBC was expecting the 2016 Olympics to be just like any other, when in reality, they needed to adapt to their impatient audience. In past Olympic years, families would gather around the TV and hold their collective breath as each Olympian competed. There were not as many opportunities to know the results before the event was finished airing in your time zone. However, with Twitter and Facebook being so readily available in 2016, the winners were often announced and seen by those who hadn’t watched the competition yet. This took a lot of excitement out of watching some of the events.

  1. NBC is Blaming the Millennials

The Millennials get all of the blame for just about anything these days, but blaming them for the declined ratings of the Olympics? That’s not exactly fair. As previously mentioned, the NBC CEO predicted that millennials were going to be stuck in their smartphone “bubble.” So why weren’t more measures taken to adapt to this prediction? As a generation that is constantly multitasking, it’s no surprise that they expected to receive Olympic updates in 140 characters or less, and NBC was simply not prepared to adjust their medium.

  1. Restrictions on social media

With Twitter being a constant and concise news outlet, many people were scrolling through their feed expecting to see a plethora of Olympic teaser videos. However, this expectation was not met. NBC had extensive restrictions on any Olympic footage showed on Twitter, and disabled accounts, some with thousands of followers, if these restrictions were breached. If NBC would have been a little less strict with their rules, it is likely that those who follow the popular accounts would’ve seen the clip of a competition and be inspired to tune in to NBC. So NBC held on tight to their rights, but was that their smartest decision? It’s hard to say.

The Olympics were certainly not deemed a failure by any means, but they could be considered a learning experience for the years to come. The digital experience is becoming a staple in our society and needs to be catered to by NBC and other TV stations if they want to see a rise in their ratings. As for blaming millennials, don’t hate the player, hate the game, NBC.