Despite incredible races and stories, NBC racked up only 23.9 million viewers and a 6.3 rating among adults 18-49 during the 8-11 pm period. The same Friday four years ago in London averaged 26.9 million viewers and an 8.1 rating in the key demo.
When NBC allowed people to watch sporting events, it had a terrific lineup of knowledgable commentators. I learn a lot each Olympics from these former athletes commenting on their own sports. NBC camera crews also continue to do an amazing job in their coverage. The images and camera work have been incredible.
NBC shocked many with its horrific coverage of the opening ceremonies. It interrupted the ceremony eight times with commercials so the viewers would just get back into some moving imagery only to have NBC insert a tacky series of commercials. Then when you were allowed to watch and hear the ceremonies, you had to listen to truly moronic commentary from the NBC morning show personalities like Meredith Vieira repeatedly saying things like “I just want to dance!” It is the type of thing that appeals to the morning show audience at NBC during cooking and fashion segments. It was horrible for the Olympic ceremony and seemed an endless effort of personalities to say that the games were really about them. Then there was the incredibly stupid decision of NBC to run segments from an interview of one of the creators on what she wanted to achieve with the games — rather than allow us to actually listen and see the games unimpeded. It was like showing a Van Gogh painting but putting a picture of artist in front of its with key biographical information.Once the games started, it got worse. NBC continued to prefer its interviews and stories over showing competitions. There was remarkably little in the game to actually watch between personal stories and commercials. The worst moment came when NBC brought in that titan of sports Ryan Seacrest (who appears to have the sole qualification of being Ryan Seacrest) in the midst of the biggest night of swimming competition. NBC wisely built up a roughly 30 minute period when Phelps had to finish a race, go to a medals ceremony, warm up, and then race again. It was a fascinating thing to watch with a clock counting down in the corner. However, just as the clock was ticking down, Seacrest was introduced and broke away for a long trailer of the Star War movie. It was something out of a Saturday Night Live skit.There has also been a general criticism of NBC downplaying protests and problems at Rio. Many have speculated that NBC was advancing the spin of the IOC and Brazil over the disastrous selection of Rio.As NBC freaks over the plunge in ratings, it might want to ask itself about the decision to feature less sports and more of itself. While NBC continues to believe that viewers tune into to see its personalities, they really do want to watch competitions. If the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had a modicum of ethics, it would be incensed by the coverage. However, sports is hardly the priority for either the IOC or NBC.So, perhaps in the NBC corporate meetings this week, someone will have the courage to paraphrase Shakespeare, and say “The fault, dear NBC, is not in our [athletic] stars, But in ourselves.”