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For decades, the network that carried the Summer Olympics did not air many events live, instead opting to hold back marquee events for prime time to boost ratings. But now that we have Twitter and other social media tools, people can follow the action live and they want to see it on TV.
That’s why over the weekend, the Twitter hashtag #NBCfail began trending, as people wondered why NBC couldn’t show swimmer Michael Phelp’s first chance for a medal live. On Friday, people complained about not getting to see the Opening Ceremony live.
As The New York Times reports, NBC tried to avoid the complaints by streaming all sports online, but people still want to see them on TV. After all, NBC has plenty of cable networks. Many also don’t want to deal with the hassle of buffering, freezing and blocky images that you can often get while streaming.
Almost to add insult to injury, on Saturday night, NBC Nightly News actually reported that Ryan Lochte beat Phelps before the race aired.
During their Opening Ceremony broadcast on Friday, many complained about NBC’s decision to cut to Ryan Seacrest interviews and including a silly opening video.
Still, these complaints aren’t keeping people away from the prime-time specials. On Friday night, a record 40.7 million viewers watched the Opening Ceremony, beating the 39.8 million that watched the 1996 Atlanta ceremony.
On Saturday night, 28.7 million viewers watched the first night of primetime coverage, another record.
In an interview with the Times, NBC Sports Group spokesman Greg Hughes brushed off the critics, noting that the company is proud of being able to offer so much to users online. “We’re enjoying tremendous success with our digital offerings,” he said. “And yes, there have been some difficulties. Some on our end; some on the users’ end. And we’re working around the clock to give everyone a good digital experience. A small number of complaints, relative to the huge number of users, is a very positive early sign.”
NBC has to hope that the rest of the games, which end on Aug. 12, go off without a hitch. After all, the struggling network spent $1.18 billion to broadcast the games. Sometimes, less Ryan Seacrest might be the way to go.