Internet/Telecom/Social Media

The real #NBCFail

by Brian Moritz

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter this weekend, you know about #nbcfail.

NBC has been so roundly and soundly (and rightfully) criticized for its coverage of the London Olympics – primarily its decision to run the marquee events on tape-delay rather than live.

In previous Olympics, tape delay was less of a big deal. I can sort of understand tape delay if the time difference is so great that running events live would put them on in the middle of the night. But London is just five hours ahead of the east coast. There’s no excuse except for greed (and if NBC continues to pull strong ratings like it did over the weekend, what incentive does it have to change?).

It’s 2012. Social media and the web are making our world smaller. News travels faster than ever. To try to pretend it’s 1988 is long-term suicide for a media organization.

But to me, the real failure of NBC is the perpetuation the old vs. new media. That false dichotomy that you can either have media the old, traditional way, or the new, social way.

There’s no reason NBC can’t do both old and new media. There’s no reason it couldn’t embrace social media while also providing its traditional, story-before-score Olympic coverage. Hell, there’s no reason why they couldn’t show the events live on one of their cable outlets, or online, or even the network, and then replay them at night in prime time (Miss the race this afternoon? Watch it tonight. Heard all the chatter online about the? Find out what everyone’s talking about …). I’d argue sports is a news event that always deserves to be live, but you could be creative how to do it.

The #NBCFail is about a media organization being stuck in the past, looking to maintain 20th century business practices in the 21st century world. It’s about a network failing to recognize that the audience is more empowered than ever. It’s about a mindset that social media is something fun that celebrities use to say positive things rather than a means for people to get news and share experiences.

At its core, it’s about perpetuating the myth that old and new media are opposite ends of the spectrum, instead of complementary tools that we use in tandem to engage the world, one tape-delayed race at a time.


Brian Moritz is a former sports reporter who walked away from his beat to find out why newspapers are struggling, what they can do about it and how the Internet is changing the way the media does business. After a decade in the field, he’s now a doctoral fellow in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where he studies journalists’ routines and how they are evolving. His research also focuses on media sociology, sports media and communications, media history and media-law issues.

Read more from Brian at his personal site, Sports Media Guy.

Image: Ginge Talks the Footy

2 replies »

  1. Last time I checked, five hours ahead of the east coast is the same as saying eight hours ahead of the west coast. Had NBC broadcast the opening ceremonies live, most of California would have missed them while they were at work. Only people such as prisoners, housewives and doctoral fellows have the luxury to watch such events in the middle of the day. Tape delay still serves a valuable purpose for 99% of the viewers.

  2. “I’d argue sports is a news event that always deserves to be live, but you could be creative how to do it.”

    I’d argue the opposite. While sports may be reality for the participants, it’s nothing more than entertainment for everyone else. Isn’t that its purpose? To compare it to news is to give it far more significance than it deserves. Is it news when Michael Phelps comes in third? No more than when my son does at his swim meet. The only difference is the number of people who are interested in the outcome, but the size of the audience doesn’t make something news. Or did I somehow miss the entire Hawkeye Pierce administration?!?