Friday, August 08, 2008

Everything's Live in Prime Time

I grew up in Hawaii. Lucky me. When John Lennon died we got to experience it twice. Why, because of ‘satellite delay’. Hawaii is so far west that most ‘live’ television was taped. When most of the nation heard Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football announce that John was dead we didn’t hear him say that for more than three hours, and by then we had been listening to the monster block to end all monster blocks. Almost 30 yrs later, you could be forgiven for thinking ‘satellite delay’ had disappeared along with wooden tennis rackets, members only and Journey. Not so.

When NBC and USA broadcast Wimbledon this year they showed the majority of the matches live; that is, except for the first men’s semifinal which Federer won. Unaware viewers found out the result of the first match during the second match which was shown live. There was some hue and cry about this at the time but tennis fans are generally a polite group. Remember the world cup in Japan/Korea? Well, luckily I was in Australia but in the US fans were left scratching their heads when live games were delayed.

In 1980 there wasn’t any alternative to watching events live if the broadcaster didn’t want us to. We had no choice. Clearly that is not the case now yet NBC continues to believe they know best what the viewer is interested in. NBC believes viewers want to see ‘live’ action in prime time. Forget the fact that this morning the NYTimes had images from the opening ceremonies, we won’t see the pictures live until later tonight. Which is just about when day two action starts.
Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, said. "We have three main constituency groups: our affiliates, our advertisers and our audience. To our affiliates and our advertisers, our responsibility is to (generate) the biggest audience that we can. And to our audience, our extensive research shows, that means putting it on when they say they want it, which is when they're available to watch it - and that's in prime time." Guardian
This type of ostrich like behavior is what’s so wrong with established media. While everything has changed the media companies try to pretend by force of will they can impose the old paradigm (on the ‘audience’). We’re all smarter than that and despite the 2,000+ hrs NBC are set to broadcast many viewers are going to be disappointed. NBC is not giving us the choices we have become accustomed to in the internet world. How far out of touch are they? An amusing anecdote regarding the LA Times which publicly patted itself on the back for a huge boost in on line traffic. Only the problem was their traffic was dwarfed by upstart Gawker media. SiliconAlleyinsider

Paradoxically, NBC maybe its own worse enemy; they recently launched which is a fantastic site and exactly what choice, selection and access is all about. Every Olympic event should be on Hulu the minute it finishes. I bet the traffic would be immense. On top of that I would guarantee viewers would settle in during prime time and watch again.

There are work arounds. Several web sites have jumped on this issue already. So if you are willing to stay up all night to watch curling check out for all the details.

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