NBC Has Two Years to Create a Better Olympic Viewing Experience
A lesson for NBC from down on the farm: If you can't escape your problems, you might have to buckle down and fix them.
About 25 years ago, I learned a valuable lesson from a cat on my Uncle Wayne's farm in the heart of Texas. And after a marathon of Olympic video content over the last month, I realized we could all gain some wisdom from a furry feline and the man who taught me how to drive a tractor.
While NBC could celebrate breaking records for most eyeballs, including nearly 2 billion page views on NBCOlympics.com, it also garnered jeers from the social side for online video issues and interrupting or cutting content to air advertisements. The #NBCfail hashtag became a rally cry for those who were unhappy with the coverage, and a large portion of the social uproar focused on ad interruptions or lack of access to content. I think any other network would have made similar decisions about balancing content with access and revenue streams. NBC did pay $1.18 billion for U.S. broadcasting rights, and it is in business to make a profit. But I think it's important for the industry to learn more about the evolution of what customers want and how to best serve content to them. So what do the Olympic viewing stories have to do with my childhood summer vacations? And how can this help content providers and viewers to get along? Let's see what we can learn from my uncle and his cat.
Uncle Wayne was a hay contractor, emu farmer, and carpenter who ran his farm like a well-oiled machine. The survival of a farm means that every animal, machine, and person has to pull its own weight, and cats are no exception. The cat's job is to keep the hay barn free of mice, and this cat served its purpose well for many years until one fateful day. Somehow the cat had broken its leg and looked like it could barely move, much less fulfill its duties. Keep in mind this was a farm, and animals are not pets on a farm. Uncle Wayne decided that the cat should be put down. Unfortunately, my cousins were drawn into service to humanely carry out the orders. Somehow they decided a rope, a cinder block, and the nearest pond would be the best method for disposing of the cat. After a few quick prayers and tears, they did what had to be done and shuffled back to the chores.
Several hours later Uncle Wayne was working in the barn and noticed something moving out of the corner of his eye. His mouth dropped open as he watched the cat limp around the corner with a rope firmly around his neck, dragging the cinder block behind him. It had been a very hot and dry summer in Texas, and apparently the pond was not as deep as they had thought. Impressed with the cat, Uncle Wayne decided the feline had more than earned his right to be a part of the farm. A few wraps of duct tape served as a makeshift splint, and the cat was gently deposited onto a bail of hay to recover and continue hunting chores.
I think Uncle Wayne would appreciate the plight of content creators. Businesses have to focus on profits, margins, and processes in order to survive, all while providing customers a relevant product. NBC implemented what it thought was the best plan for success in providing video content to a vast audience through multiple channels. A small but growing section of the viewing public is upset and making noise. Audiences want more options, fewer ads, and viewing flexibility. Many content creators are hearing the cries of frustration and choosing to either ignore them or kill off the variety of creative viewing options. It's time for the content creators and distributors to patch up the wounds and focus on how to move forward. It won't be easy and it will take creative solutions, but networks can give viewers what they want and still run profitable businesses.
You can try to drown your problems, but more than likely they will come dragging themselves back around the corner. Grab the roll of duct tape and figure out how to fix what's broken. With 2 years until the next Olympics, the opportunity for innovation is endless. Just remember ... happy cat, happy farm.
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