What Governments Can Learn from #NBCfail

Doug Hadden, VP Products

The American television network, NBC, has exclusive broadcast rights to the 2012 London games. Broadcast coverage by NBC has generated the twitter hash tag of #NBCfail. The use of social media, including twitter has generated an undercurrent of satire and ridicule for:

Commentator Jeff Jarvis suggests:

The problem for NBC as for other media is that it is trying to preserve old business models in a new reality. To experiment with alternatives when billions are at stake is risky. But so is not experimenting and not learning when millions of your viewers can complain about you on Twitter.

From Broadcast to Always On

What’s changed from, say 1996? There was tape delays during the 1996 Atlanta games, in the United States, for events like the Men’s 100 Meter Dash [see below].

Broadcast electronic media enables control. Control of the message. Control of the advertising revenue. But, there is limited control in cyber space which is always on. Where people in stadiums and those watching in other countries can post results.

NBC executives seem to think that American citizens need the context presented. As if Americans are not bright enough to understand what is going on (or find out through a search on the Internet.) This is an patronizing attitude by elites is described in full by John Ralston Saul.

Lessons for Governments

  1. Public servants need to consider that they do not have all of the answers or the best answers. Governments can leverage citizen cognitive surplus.
  2. Citizens view delays of information as indicative of incompetence or hiding something so transparency can increase citizen trust.
  3. Governments cannot stop information flow to citizens, so it’s better to be proactive with open data rather than wait for access to information requests.
  4. Governments will be satirized and ridiculed – as they have been for centuries, just on cyberspace. Get used to it. Adjust.
  5. Transparency will reveal incompetence, corruption and inefficiencies. Embrace these to improve government effectiveness.

1996 100 Meter Dash

I watched the event on CBC. There was a lot of tension given the strong field. After watching the stress of false starts and the eventual win by Donovan Bailey, I flipped to the American channel (we can do that in Canada, although there doesn’t seem to be much reciprocity) to find that the network was setting up the event. Providing context. Here’s British commentary from the event. Wasn’t this enough tension? Isn’t it better than reality television?

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Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Strategy & Innovation at FreeBalance
  • raymo

    I think NBCs coverage has really stunk, I only have seen 2 attempts in weight lifting. After watching equestrian for an hour and a half it is obvious they only cater to a money market. I want ABC back. They always did a much better job.

  • otaoulis

    NBC not only riffed USA viewers but they are extremely poor presenters focusing more on the announcers than the actual games. The network should review how the British (BBC and SkySports) present and comment on sports. It is NOT about the television presenters, rather it is about the actual participants in the games themselves – how they run, swim, jump and compete. It is NOT about the emotional aspects of the participants or focusing most of the show on the participants’ families so that viewers can shed a little tear. Also it is not about these annoying commercials which interrupt the viewing of these sports.

  • Ralph

    We the people are getting sick and tired of being screwed with and NBC is just another in a list of politicians, bankers and corporations seemingly immune from and punitive action. We the people can take control of all of this and it takes a mere boycott of the station and also their advertisers. Silent majority my ass!

  • Karliner

    NBC failed me because I don’t have TV and they refused access to ALL high speed internet sites. All that I heard. Mine was Suddenlink( formely Cox cable) and I tried everything,. cleaning cache deleting cookies, accepting cookies, accepting NBC, adding adobe, deleting adobe, asking IT help from Suddenlink a dozen times in 8 days then a friend to help. Nothing worked.
    i wanted badly to watch the tae Kwon Do as i had coached some of the folks back in the earlier last two games and now they’re friend of whom I coached. TV wiould not show them when AI drove miles( live in a rural area) to a Tv and nothing.
    They fail because the screwed the contracts for the internet cable providers to POLITICALLY show they’re the number one site in America.
    They never returned the cables questions and last press release was dated JUL:Y 16th!!!
    F*** NBC. I never saw more than ten minutes of the Olympics for the first time since I was overseas in the early 80’s…never again. If I ever get another TV I’ll never watch MSLSD/NBC of ANY affiliates. They politicized the Olympics and breached their contracts. it’s disgusting what they did.