NEW YORK – In the age of social media, NBC now has millions of television critics who make their opinions known about every aspect of Olympics coverage instantly.
They’ve even set up their own hashtag on Twitter: #nbcfail. The online complaints focused Saturday on NBC’s decision to air the marquee swimming event won by American Ryan Lochte on tape delay in prime time, and Friday on the network not streaming the opening ceremony online. Sunday’s critics started early: people wondering why the U.S. men’s basketball team’s opening game aired on a cable network while women’s cycling was shown on NBC.
The conversation is so active that NBC’s executive producer of the games, Jim Bell, took to Twitter to answer critics and even change the way NBC is doing something in response.
“#nbcfail is filled with a lot of crying and snark and humor, but NBC can actually learn something from it,” said Jeff Jarvis, a media critic who writes the Buzzmachine.com blog.
Complaints about tape-delayed coverage are an evergreen with Olympics held on foreign soil. But the London Games are the first with Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites in full flower, in a mobile-phone era where people carry computers that instantly deliver news in their pockets. It has amplified the impatience of viewers who want to see events on their large-screen TVs instantly and haven’t been mollified by NBC’s decision to stream the events live online.
James Poniewozik, Time magazine TV critic, tweeted that “NBC tape delay coverage is like the airlines: Its interest is in giving you the least satisfactory service you will still come back for.”
That drew a quick response from NBC’s Bell: “You do know that all sports events are being streamed live right?”
“I do, indeed!” replied Poniewozik. “Have enjoyed it. Apparently a lot of folks still prefer watching it on TV.”
NBC saod it saves big events for prime-time airing because that is when most viewers are available to watch them and where the network makes the bulk of its advertising revenue. Since prime time on the U.S. East Coast coincides with 1 a.m. London time, there are no events to air live then.