If you live in the United States and you’re planning on watching the opening ceremonies tonight of the 2012 Olympic Games, you may want to go dark after 4pm ET today. That means no Twitter, no Facebook, no social media, no Internet and no TV channels other than NBC. Why? NBC has decided that every part of the Summer Olympics will be available live except for the opening and closing ceremonies. So while the United Kingdom and the rest of the world are watching the three hour opening ceremonies beginning at 4pm ET, the public in the United States will have to wait until NBC’s tape-delayed coverage begins at 7:30pm ET.
In the past, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue. But nowadays with all of us so plugged in to real-time events around the world, whether it’s on social media or via the Internet, NBC is taking the United States back to the Stone Age by giving interested viewers only one option to watch the opening ceremonies. None of the NBC-affiliated networks will be showing the opening ceremonies live. Neither will NBCOlympics nor the NBC Olympics Live Extra app.
I understand that NBC wants to experience a TV ratings bonanza tonight, and that the 7:30pm ET start is more convenient for viewers in this country. But NBC could have made the opening ceremonies available via their app, for those who wanted to watch it live. Yes, it would have diluted the TV ratings later tonight, but it would have been an NBC finally coming to grips with the times.
Instead, many of us now have to run the risk of trying to go dark for several hours so the surprises of what will be in store during tonight’s Olympic Games won’t be ruined. If you live on the west coast, it’s even worse. The opening ceremonies will be shown on television 6.5 hours after they started in London.
According to a NBC executive quoted in The Wall Street Journal, “The opening ceremony is not a sporting event with a score or a winner that is difficult to keep secret, but rather an entertainment spectacle that should be seen by family and friends gathered around the TV in prime-time hours.”
That NBC executive, the president of NBC Olympics, doesn’t have a clue. Yes, it’s not a sporting event with a score or a winner, but there will be a gigantic number of people tweeting around the world this afternoon, sharing their delight at seeing all of the different surprises that are in store. If it’s anything like the rumors I’ve been seeing this morning, people around the world (except the United States) will be incredibly excited and commenting about how amazing the Olympic Games opening ceremony is. Plus, news media organizations around the world, and in the US (especially NBC’s competitors), will be sharing photos and updates of who appeared in the opening ceremony on their own news broadcasts — live, and not delayed by 3.5 hours.
Needless to say, there will be a lot of opportunities for people to have their enjoyment spoiled later today.
Dare I might add that I won’t be surprised if NBC takes its time tonight to share the three hour spectacle with us. I’m imagining that NBC will build up the hype, and will slowly begin showing the opening ceremony instead of starting it promptly at 7:30pm ET. So don’t be surprised if the conclusion of the 3 hour opening ceremony — that should go from 7:30-10:30pm ET on tape delay — will be dragged on until midnight or later on the east coast.
The bottom line is that NBC needs to understand that viewers want a choice. In this modern world, viewers should have the choice to watch it live on their mobile device or Internet. Or, to watch it on tape delay with their friends or family tonight if they want. By giving Americans only one legal way to watch the opening ceremony tonight, NBC is setting up a system where they indirectly encourage people to watch pirated streams or risk getting disappointed. In the year 2012, we should expect NBC to make better decisions instead of living in the past.