The Pivot: Or Why #nbcfail is a REALLY BIG DEAL

Since 1988, NBC has been where Americans go to get their Olympics coverage. It’s no secret that this incredibly lucrative contract, obtained during the network’s glory days, has led the broadcaster to think they are “unkillable,” (despite being 4th in the network wars.)

This theory was seriously tested this past weekend.

You see, NBC has always had a tape delay to bring a compact, clean package of coverage for the sports it televises. This has served them well in the past, but in a social media world, they can’t afford to keep this bad idea around.

It seems the broadcaster, who boasts how “plugged in” they are (NBC, after all is an investor and content provider for Hulu, the streaming service which is extremely popular un the US.) hasn’t quite jumped the chasm of knowing social media exists, and understanding how unbelievable crucial a proper social media strategy needs to inform their broadcast.

Right from the first Hobbitesque frame of the opening ceremonies Friday (on a delay 4 hours after it had been broadcast EVERYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD) the twitterverse was not best pleased. You see, Americans had been reading tweets all afternoon describing the ceremonies. There were pictures being posted as-it-happened, and there was even a complete video on Youtube of the 7/7 tribute which NBC did not air.

And, yet, they still didn’t get it. Their response to the negative sentiment?

Vivian Schiller, Chief Digital Officer for NBCNews and MSNBC thought this was the proper “witty retort” for all those people who called NBC out:

GOSH. Get a LIFE people! What could have possibly changed in the last 8 years that would make people want a different approach?

But, she raises a good point. NBC has always done it this way, and it has netted them rewards. The predictability of their offering has allowed them to negotiate sky-high ad revenues during this period. In every conceivable old media way, they have a vested interest in the status quo.

Even if that status quo shits the bed. 

It’s time for NBC to pivot. 

You hear the term “pivot” a lot to describe start ups changing their focus, or a material part of their business. This is EXACTLY what’s needed here. 

Much fun is made of the term “join the conversation,” but that is the crux of the major failure here. 

No one bothered to ask HOW NBC was going to join the conversation, or what the hell they were going to do when they got there.

The rules of the road for social media are: 1. LISTEN. 2. Respond, not 1. Broadcast crap no one cares about 2. When they don’t like what you’re shoving down their throats, call them babies.

NBC could have avoided this situation by having a digital chief with REAL POWER in the planning stages who UNDERSTANDS SOCIAL MEDIA and could head this problem off at the pass. (Barring that, said person could have had actual Social Media experts (guest influencers would have been a good way to go) to follow a RESPONSE PLAN to not add gasoline to the fire.

How big is the fire?

  • MILLIONS of tweets in 72 hours on the hashtag #nbcfail.
  • Jeff Jarvis posts a scathing report on this failure saying, “We in the U.S. are being robbed of the opportunity to share a common experience with the world in a way that was never before possible.
  • Parody accounts cropped up, including @NBCDelayed

NBC hasn’t even been bothering to listen or contribute at this late stage of the game, even when the harshest critics are linking to streaming online from foreign sources so that they can watch the matches in the way they were intended.

NBC: you are losing revenue because of these stupid fucking decisions. 

But, they’ve decided to go the worst route possible: artificially silencing their critics.

The most vocal critic of NBC, British Journalist Guy Adams had his twitter account suspended today (Twitter is in a Co-Production with NBC, though they should have known better.) You can read Guy’s own account here. This story is going viral quickly, and the mentions of NBC are profoundly negative. I guess they want their legacy to be that they’re





NBC, you need to fire whomever is in charge here. This is the WRONG WAY to approach a problem which every other G20 nation broadcasting the games has managed to solve. You need to hire people who are in a position to make real change, and understand how social media works. You can’t (and shouldn’t) prevent people from watching something with the rest of the world, and commenting on what they see. 

Your decisions are made based on profits which will evaporate with the dissemination of pirated feeds anyway, making your revenue approach VERY hard to justify. (Plus: there are amazing ways you can market and track behaviour online to increase your profits. Call me if you need a lesson!)

The negative press and mentions online sully what you’re trying to achieve. You can hardly afford this as the #4 network in primetime already. (You’re the Brandon Tartikoff network, for Pete’s sake. ACT LIKE IT)

You cannot afford to fuck this up anymore. It’s a Goddamned embarrassment. 

PS: Matt Inman, “The Oatmeal” summing it up: 

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