Olympic Ratings Continue To Plunge For NBC

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.”  

31 thoughts on “Olympic Ratings Continue To Plunge For NBC

  1. We’re with VeloMac… the other thing you can fast-forward past are the activities you have no interest in — ribbon dancing, volleyball, fencing — nothing wrong with them (well, ribbon dancing?), just not our cuppa’, and there actually ARE things we want to see. It WOULD be nice if NBC would provide better details about what’s going to be IN a given broadcast segment, so you could dump without spending ANY time reviewing, but…

    The decline for me started back at the very beginning of the NBC coverage. Remember the Sapporo Winter Games, 1972 fer pete-sake! — that was the first time we started getting soap-opera life histories of certain selected athletes — pieces that had next to nothing to do with the athletics but had been designed as “human interest to create more women viewers”, because “women don’t like to watch sports.” SO SEXIST, SO LONG AGO! And the US-centricism is also disgusting because it makes you miss so much, in areas where the US isn’t particularly strong.

  2. I agree that scheduling information is somewhat difficult to find.

    As to excessive US-centrism in the selection of events, I have not found that to be the case. I have seen a great deal of, for example, team handball, in which the US does not even field a team, and rugby sevens, where the US went out fairly early. I think that NBC has reasonably determined that there is more demand for reportage about US athletes for a US audience, so I don’t find the balance problematic.

    I am listening to the national anthem of Jamaica as I write this — kind of catchy if I do say so.

    Are you located in the US?

  3. Commentary in the rowing competition included this as to why the US dominates the eight person women’s, “They are developing their own identity and rowing to their potential.”

    What a remarkably silly thing to say. What does it even mean? I suspect the domination results from strength training and practice that perfects timing. “Rowing to their potential?” Please.

  4. @ Bill H

    “They are developing their own identity and rowing to their potential.”

    Having had three daughters who rowed in high school, I, too, scratched my head at that comment.

    Rowing training consists of a lot of hard effort on the boat, in the weight room, on the running trail, and on the rowing ergometer. Rowing in competition consists of pulling an oar or oars in complete synchrony with rest of the crew as hard as possible for ~8:00 so that at the end you are completely exhausted. If you are not completely drained, you did not work hard enough.

    “Work Potential” can be measured on the ergometer (hence the name), but if you are not already rowing to your potential and your potential is not in the top ranks of the available rowers, you don’t belong on the boat. As to “identity,” I think it is more about suppression of individual identity — the only one who is supposed to be thinking on the boat is the coxswain — the little person who gets to tell all the big persons what to do and when to do it.

  5. Face it folks, NBC or any other network will not listen to its viewers. Not when their banks are stuffed with cash, it will be the same all over again next time. The public be damned.

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