informa
/
Commentary

Global CIO: NBC's Olympics Web Strategy Pounds Another Nail In Coffin

In trying to force web viewers to watch the Olympics on NBC's terms, the network showed how pathetically out of touch it is with that vital audience.
"Why do broadcasters of the Olympics make it so hard to watch the Olympics? ("The Couch: Keep Your Spoilers to Yourselves," The Winter Olympics, Feb. 18.)

"If I tune in to NBC, I have to watch two sports that I'm not interested in for every one that I am. If I try to watch just Olympic snowboarding on the Web, I have to download some special "Silverlight" video technology from Microsoft instead of watching with the video programs that I am already accustomed to, like YouTube, Hulu and Vimeo.

"Don't these people realize that the way we consume media—especially the way kids consume media—has changed? We want to watch what we want to watch when we want to watch it."

That's another question we should all think about very closely, and feel free to replace the word "media" with the name of the business you're in because this point-blank question isn't just about the media business:

"Don't these people realize that the way we consume media—especially the way kids consume media—has changed?"

You would think so. But you'd be wrong. And this strategic blunder by NBC will cost the network dearly in credibility and viewership and a huge lost opportunity. As the Journal writes in "The Couch" column cited above:

"But, yes, it's obvious that NBC's prime time, deeply edited Olympic formula is out of sync with today's on-demand media feast. We're a nation that laughs to Letterman over breakfast and giddily skips through the commercials that pay for shows like "Lost." We can watch Red Sox games in Mumbai and Mumbai cricket in Boston, so when someone has the audacity to edit and reheat the leftovers from an afternoon ski race, we howl like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka's factory. We want our Olympic coverage the way we want it, and we want it now.

"With broadcasting eroding into nichecasting, we may get that wish. NBC took a cold bath on these games—after paying $820 million, it stands to lose more than $200 million—and it will think twice about paying that coin again."

Hey, I've got nothing against the NBC-mandated Silverlight—but that's not the point. The point is that NBC's web strategy of requiring web audiences to download Silverlight, right here in 2010 when web video is commonplace, is, if I may be charitable, stupid. The best guess I can come up with—and yeah, I agree, it's really lame—is that maybe NBC felt that since it has a partnership with Microsoft via MSNBC, then corporate etiquette demands that NBC's web viewers must download Microsoft's Silverlight, whether they want it or not.

As letter-writer Citrano says, "I have to download some 'Silverlight' video technology from Microsoft instead of watching with the video programs that I am already accustomed to, like YouTube, Hulu and Vimeo."

You would think that at this point in NBC's precarious existence, the network's long-overused survival instincts would have kicked in and prevented such a train wreck.

But NBC wouldn't think that. Instead, seemingly caught up in its own trivial internal political games of footsy, its only thought was what it could try to do to control consumer behavior. And as its just reward, NBC pounded a few more nails into the already-snug lid of its own coffin.

RECOMMENDED READING

Global CIO: Apple's Steve Jobs Torpedoes Another Stale Business Model

Global CIO: Do CIOs Still Matter?

Global CIO: Microsoft's Suicidal Infighting: An Insider's Story

Global CIO: JetBlue Genius And Hollywood Lunacy: 5 Essential Lessons For CIOs

Global CIO: Why CEOs Must Tie CIOs' Pay To Customers And Growth

Global CIO: The Top 10 CIO Issues For 2010

GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].