Why does NBC make it so difficult to watch the Olympics?

NBC drops the ball on distribution

I’ve noticed a lot of ads about the Olympics over the last week. Apparently the opening ceremonies were broadcast live last Friday, around 7:30 PM, which is kind of weird considering that would be 8:30 AM in Tokyo. Turns out that was just fake NBC time to create an artificial “event” for me to participate in.

But I tried to check it out anyway. Surely such a big spectacle would be “streaming” on YouTube live, CNN’s website, NY Times and the Olympics main website as a teaser for the next month of Olympic programming. But I couldn’t find it. I tried logging in through my parent’s cable provider, but got into a strangle loop where I choose my provider, got redirected, logged in, and was then sent back to choosing my provider again. However, checking this morning the strange loop has been closed.

Guess I wasn’t going to be seeing them “live”. I just had to wait until Saturday. This is what’s on YouTube today if you search the recommended phrase Olympics opening ceremony 2021:

I watched all of the videos but the one displaying pictograms, but I didn’t feel satisfied. View counts above are from Monday morning and are pretty low. More people saw Tim Dillon’s tweet of a fake NBC producer caught on a hot mic:

I would think opening ceremonies would be more publicized due to the extravagance and expense that went into them. It’s a quickly depreciating asset since many people want to watch them live or near live, but very few would want to watch them even a week later. Does anyone care about the 2016 Rio Opening Ceremony which was streamed live on Youtube to 6 million views? Even 2012 was streamed live.

In fact, I found every single opening ceremonies dating back to 1972. Before then you can find shorter clips, but all 3+ hours of every ceremony since 1972 can be viewed on Youtube.

Watching games

I was also interested in some events. The Olympics marketing team did a great job at planting stories about Serbian 3x3 basketball in both the Wall Street Journal and NY Times. It’s a great story. Basketball is a very popular sport and 3x3 as opposed to 5x5 adds a new dimension. The game is so different that the American powerhouse didn’t even qualify for the event. And Serbia has a superstar athlete most have never heard of.

So how can I follow the action and ideally watch some games?

Well, I can search for 3x3 basketball on the Olympics site.

Not the best layout. It lumps men’s and women’s games. It has no search. You have to scroll down to find where we are now. No standings or aggregate data. But what happens when I click into a game?

I get a play by play description of the game, but no video. On the sidebar there is this:

This takes you to another site where you can actually watch live. And they have replays… of preliminary matches:

The matches aren’t even labeled by the teams involved. If you search for Serbia basketball on the site, you’ll see this:

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe there’s some website that exists that has all this and I’m just bad at googling. Maybe there’s some hidden away page on this site that has everything available in a reasonable manner. But at this point I’m giving up.

What I would like to see

I would like a website where you put in a country or sport and get a chronological list of games involving that country or sport. You can filter on men’s vs women’s. You can also see most viewed videos and another section for live video. Highlights or commentary would be nice as well.

I would like each sport to have a page of rankings and a page explaining the rules, scoring and history of the sport. I would like a similar page for each country.

I would like to watch the opening games without subscribing to any new service. You can still show me ads. In fact, the ads you can show me could be hyper specialized to me personally.

Maybe its not for me

Maybe I’m not the target audience. I’ll be honest, even under best case scenario, I don’t see myself watching more than a few hours total. Why focus on reaching someone like me when your target market comes home at 5 PM, flips on NBC and has it running in the background until 11 PM. If you give them too many options, they’ll just watch what they care about and you’ll sell a lot fewer ads.

I’m sure this person exists. I know a few personally. But these people have increasingly better options. It’s not a choice between watching NBC and FOX. It’s watching NBC or streaming any shows or movies from your curated Netflix steam or playing video games seamlessly downloaded to your console, or endless social media feeds. And that’s a lot harder sell. But don’t worry, CNN says its nothing to worry about

"This is probably going to be the lowest-rated summer Olympics of all time," said Patrick Crakes, a former Fox Sports executive turned media consultant. "They can't avoid the increased media fractionalization that's enabling everyone to spend more time with all sorts of content."

Streaming and digital platforms provide viewers with more ways to watch the Olympics than ever — live events, highlights, interviews, stories and other shareable clips. That's why this Olympics could see its viewership fall to a record low in the traditional TV sense yet still reach more eyeballs than ever.

Yeah, about that…