Olympic rage (or Chris hates television)

Last night at 21:00 GMT, the 30th Olympiad opened in London with the always (okay, usually) enjoyable opening ceremony. After the stunning ceremony in Beijing in 2008, London had a lot to live up to. For the most part, they did. The ceremony had a rocky start (visually stunning, but the narrative seemed muddled) but once it found its groove I was captivated.

Most Americans weren’t going to find that out for another four hours though. You see, in their infinite wisdom (and presumably in pursuit of ad revenues), NBC decided to wait until primetime to broadcast the ceremony. That’s right: a four hour tape delay. In the age of Twitter, Facebook, and an increasingly networked globe… there was no chance this was going to fail.

Ha! Yeah right. It pretty much failed instantly. How? Let’s see:

  • The @NBCOlympics Twitter account live-tweeted the ceremony. Live. Not “delayed” live… real live. I’m sure their quarter-million followers who wouldn’t be able to see the ceremony for another four hours didn’t mind.
  • Except that some Americans did mind. Including some prominent folks, like the CEO of Salesforce. He even tweeted a link to an illegal stream of the BBC’s feed.
  • In the meantime, local broadcasters were actually pretending the ceremony hadn’t even started yet.

And then, when it finally came time for the NBC tape-delayed feed to begin…

  • Commercials, commercials, commercials. Over $1 billion in Olympic ad sales, in fact. The BBC stream didn’t have a single commercial.
  • Maybe if they hadn’t sold so many commercials, they could have had time to show the tribute to the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attack, instead of a interview between Ryan Seacrest and Michael Phelps. That’s right: they actually cut a tribute to terrorism victims to show an interview with one of the most interviewed sports figures of the past four years.

What’s this all add up to? A truly disgusting, insulting handling of the Olympic opening by NBC. And that’s just the opening ceremony. The games have barely begun; I can hardly wait to see how they handle the rest of the event.

The television business is ripe for disruption. Players like Google are in the perfect position to make this type of change a reality: the question is, are they willing to upset the status quo? As I see events move to YouTube streaming and other competitors, I hope the answer is yes. The television industry is clinging to bad business practices and shameful tactics that I sincerely hope will be outmoded by a new generation of entertainment businesses soon.

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