Online Olympics Coverage Trumps NBC

2010 Winter Olympics BannersNBC is catching a lot of flak from viewers about its decision to show the highlights of the 2010 Winter Olympics during primetime rather than airing each competition event as it happens. NBC has also decided to drastically reduce the amount of live streaming available on its companion web site, NBC Olympics, compared to what was shown during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. According to Twitter Sentiment metrics, roughly 75 percent of the Twitter discussion regarding the 2010 Olympics is negative.

Ironically, drawing equal fire are the news outlets that are reporting the Olympics results in real time. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have both had to defend themselves against reader complaints in recent days. Both newspapers maintain that readers’ grievances should be with NBC and not with organizations that are simply doing their job by reporting the news in real time.

NBC Nightly News is providing viewers with a spoiler alert before anchor Brian Williams reports the day’s results. Of course, they have a vested interest (read: advertising dollars) in keeping their viewers spoiler-free and wanting to watch the network’s primetime coverage instead. Individual NBC reporters, such as NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd, are not withholding information on their personal social media profiles, however. Todd’s report on Lindsey Vonn’s gold medal win in women’s downhill skiing via his Twitter account hours before NBC aired the footage was met with “a few hundred” angry replies. Todd told Matea Gold, television media reporter at the Los Angeles Times, that he will consider giving a spoiler alert for future Olympic tweets.

As online journalist Robert Niles tweeted:

Posting the results of a public event seen by millions around the world isn’t a ‘spoiler.’ It’s ‘news.’ You know, what journalists post.

And as reporter Dan Gillmor from Mediactive wrote:

The fact that the ombudsman of The New York Times needs to explain to readers why his newspaper reports actual news as it happens — and Olympic results are actual news — is a depressing commentary on our nation’s entertainment-driven culture.

Source: “Pressure Builds On NBC To Explain Why It’s Ruining The Olympics,” Forbes, 02/18/10
Source: “In Twitterverse, Olympics fans cringe at spoilers,”, 02/18/10
Source: “There are No ‘Spoilers’ in News,” Mediactive, 02/17/10
Source: “The Olympics? Don’t Tell Me,”, 02/17/10
Source: “It’s not a spoiler, it’s news,”, 02/18/10
Image by Michael Francis McCarthy, used under its Creative Commons license.

About Rachelle Matherne


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  1. Alex says:

    Can you really blame NBC for the delay? I am the first to say that it is slightly annoying to hear a result before you have the chance to watch it (Lindsay Vonn and Bode Millers medals for example). It is also almost impossible to avoid hearing about it before it airs. With that said…ratings do not lie. When NBC decided to tape delay Lindsey Vonn and Shaun White’s initial appearances, it resulted in a 8.9 Adults 18-49 Rating and American Idols first 2nd place finish since 2004! How can you argue with that result?

  2. David Reich says:

    I have to say, Alex, you simply can’t argue with that result. As frustrating as it is to some viewers, that’s an amazing rating, and ad revenue has to be NBC’s first priority. But also, there are plenty of viewers who tune into NBC primetime and want the results, without watching the full events — they’re perfectly content with the coverage.

    Additionally, Simon must have been pretty pissed he wasn’t #1.

  3. What about doing it both ways? Airing full coverage during the day and saving highlights for primetime?

    I don’t watch the Olympics but if I did, I could only commit to watching a highlights show. But I know some Olympics fanatics who want to see it all!

    Another option would be to air the full coverage on the companion website. Perhaps they will do that in the future.

  4. Alex says:

    I feel like airing it earlier in the day will take away viewers from Prime where advertisers pay higher CPMs. Also…I know it seems backwards, but maybe having people leak information will stir buzz and make people watch in Prime (I have no idea if that’s true). With that said, airing it earlier and then replaying it would be better for the viewers, but it doesn’t surprise me at all that Dick Ebersol and NBC would rather go for the money.

    During the Bejing Olympics, NBC had everything streaming live on their website, down to more obscure sports like Fencing. I am not sure why they didn’t continue this. They also had more of NBC Universals Cable networks involved (brought in Bravo, Oxygen, and SciFy along with CNBC and MSNBC for coverage). Maybe they felt the winter games wouldn’t bring enough traffic into their website to justify putting the money into it? They already paid way too much for the games as it is…why risk losing more?