NBC Sports Admits Olympics Mistakes But Calls Critics 'Loud Minority'
The criticism of NBC's Olympics coverage has occasionally been correct, NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus conceded in a conference call Thursday. "Some of it is in fact fair," he said. "There have been some technical issues at the start. We knew it wouldn't be perfect."
He cited by way of example the promotion for "Today" that spoiled the results of a tape-delayed gymnastics final airing just a few minutes later.
But coverage is proceeding more smoothly now, Mr. Lazarus added. "We believe most of these issues are gone."
And gripes about not showing all events live on TV just aren't realistic, he argued. "You can't physically do everything live," he said."
Mr. Lazarus said his team is meeting every morning to discuss changes that should be considered within these games, but also said the criticism on Twitter and other "new platforms" is coming from "a very loud minority."
Asked about frustration among online viewers (including this reporter) who have tried to watch a live event but missed part of it because they first hit pre-roll ads, Mr. Lazarus ceded ground. "I think that 's not an unfair question and I think we're learning as we go there," he said.
NBC is talking about tweaking the timing of social-media alerts to make sure that viewers that click through have time to see the pre-roll ad before the event begins. "We're not trying to put you in a position where you're missing something you're coming for," he said.
Overall, Mr. Lazarus said NBC has been thrilled with viewership numbers both on TV and online. He reiterated that NBC should finish the Olympics financially "around break-even -- no qualifiers."
Prime-time viewership has beaten the 2008 Beijing games all six nights so far, according to Mr. Lazarus, although he cautioned that the broadcaster does not expect that every night.
Digital traffic numbers are also solid so far, but are not overly impressive across all metrics. Some 28 million people have visited NBCOlympics.com during the games, for example, up only 8% from the Beijing games, where some key events were not live streamed. Still, total video streams have increased 182% from Beijing to 64 million. About 29 million of those streams were live, a 343% increase in live streams over Beijing at this point in the games.
Tablet and mobile viewing of live events have accounted for 40% to 45% of all live streams, NBC said.