Engagdet is hosting an excellent editorial today on why NBC’s 20th century Olympic coverage is failing to live up to 21st century standards.
I recommend reading the whole thing. Here’s two key excerpts.
That bare fact shines stark light on the values and assets in play. NBC knows that it has little value in this equation. The two primary business values of the Olympics are: the event and the audience. The role of media in a digitally connected world, ideally, is to bring audience and event together with no blockage or artificial friction.
But the Olympics reality is all frictional and intermediary, because NBC’s two assets are inherently low-value: machines (broadcasting technology) and commentary (the witheringly maligned hosts). The internet as an unaffiliated global medium solves both the machinery issue (with internet infrastructure and web services), and the commentary space (with social media). In a flat view uncolored by business opportunism, NBC brings zero value to the challenge of exposing a global event to a hungry national audience.
By limiting stream access to cable or satellite subscribers (with NBC / CNBC packages), this scheme enforces ecosystem buy-in that opposes any idea that the Olympics belong to everyone. You must be on the grid; worse than that, you must be on one of NBC’s grids to reach another of NBC’s grids. The have-nots, whether by necessity or cord-cutting choice, are mostly blacked out of the Olympics experience in their homes.
So we’re left with a first-world problem for the haves, and aggravated resentment for the have-nots. None of us, on either side of that divide, is a customer of NBC. NBC’s customers are its advertisers. And whether or not NBC’s licensing bet pays off, old media plants a massive victory stake in the ground, pushing aside technology’s rightful role of connecting the world in shared moments, impervious to the sharpened sticks hurled by the digerati.
We can see a similar dynamic beginning to take shape among cable news where, with a few exceptions, hosts add nothing of value. And I believe the only way cable news will survive the future is if commentary and opinion is severed from news delivery.
There will always be a market for commentary, and those who excel at it now will excel in the future, but the role it should play in the delivery of information will become increasingly ambiguous.
I would also add that this problem, as it relates to the Olympics, is somewhat unique to America. Whereas NBC-Universal-Comcast enjoys total corporate hegemony over Olympic coverage in the United States, coverage in virtually every other country is handled by non-profit broadcasting.
You can view a list of all Olympic broadcasters here.