Olympic Coverage: A Cautionary Tale for Marketers

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keep calm

What’s the fundamental problem that NBC and others are facing with the Olympics, resulting in things like the #NBCFail movement?

Is it crass commercialism and ad-driven media?

Is it a time zone issue?

Is it bad reporting?

Nope. Fundamentally, the issue beneath everything around the coverage of the Olympics boils down to this simple but important set of concepts:

There is a difference between information and experience.
You cannot control information.
You can control experience.

What NBC has tried to protect and failed at is control of the information from the Olympics, from trying to rein in spoilers to control what has been said about the events and their publication of them. Information is beyond anyone’s control these days, which should have been obvious to the NBC team. If the assassination of Osama bin Laden ended up on Twitter, what’s the likelihood of controlling any information coming out of London? There are, for example, VPN Olympics packages for sale online right now for $10 that will let you VPN into the UK, obtain a UK IP address, and watch the uncut, uncensored live streams of Olympic coverage by the BBC. Information finds a way to get out, more than ever in a real-time world. NBC ignored that reality.

What NBC did have total control over was the packaging of the information on their channels. This is the real-time world. Why not let everyone have access to the firehouse of sports in real-time for those who want unfiltered access, and then package the day into better, tighter, more impactful stories that go beyond just watching events unfold?

By having a time delay, NBC had the opportunity to prune all of that information down, add in more compelling information (like all the human interest stories), and turn information into an experience that people would actually want to watch for its own sake, in addition to catching their favorite sports uncut.

They also ignored the power of digital distribution entirely. If I have 30 minutes at night to catch the news, wouldn’t it be great if I could sign into NBC’s channel on iTunes and download the Olympics martial arts episode for 5 with 30 minutes of coverage of all the judo, boxing, and tae kwon do match highlights of the day, or pay10 for a large download file of the matches uncut to watch later?

As a marketer, you have very little control over information. You have total control over how you present that information, what kind of experience you package it in, and how your audience receives that package. Focus on what you have control over, rather than tilt at windmills beyond your control, and you’ll create the value your audience wants and is happy to pay for.

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2 responses to “Olympic Coverage: A Cautionary Tale for Marketers”

  1. Awesome post, really says it all. It reflects television broadcasting mentality in general I think.

    They are stuck in the past and forget that we have many more choices available now, whereas in the old days people used to watch tv commercials, now people just flick the channel or flick the tv off altogether.

    Great topic.

  2. Very interesting. The implication to me is that one information was power and power was money. Now information is no longer power because it availible to everyone. Thus information by its self cannot be converted to money. NBC and others need to add value to information to create money.

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