Mark Lazarus, in an interview with Paid Content, called the net’s Olympic Coverage “a grand experiment” in a 1 Billion dollar lab.
From my perspective – and I’ll explain my perspective in a moment – he’s right, and their learning will pay off not only for NBC, but for the entire TV industry.
Just 6 weeks ago, I started as “Head of TV” at Twitter. I’m writing this on my own blog, and all of the opinions are my own. But I’m also writing because I’d like to use my little “scratch pad” of a blog to generate discussion and debate around social media and TV.
I spend a good chunk of my day talking with networks, showrunners, social media experts, technologists and talent about how TV is coming together with social media and Twitter. NBC’s experience with the Olympics is going to illuminate the discussion around three of the issues I hear a lot. (AT LEAST – if you have more, comment below.)
1) Real Time vs. Time Shifting. People tweet in real time. If you live on the east coast and watch / tweet TV, no problem. If you live on the west coast, there’s a problem – with spoilers. I don’t think people decided not to watch the episode of Mad Men where (spoiler alert, if you haven’t watched this season) Joan slept with the guy from Jaguar? On Saturday night, NBC had killer ratings, despite everyone knowing that Lochte beat Phelps. .
Lifetime.com recently installed a “west coast / east coast” button to save west coast fans of Project Runway from spoilers. I’ll be curious to see how many use it. My own instinct is that “spoilers” actually increase interest in a program: it’s the whole “It’s the journey, not the destination” thing… “Yes, I know how it ends… I want to see HOW!”
2) A huge shift in what we think of as “insider / outsider” perspective. The athletes are tweeting like crazy. People in the venues are tweeting like crazy. The network and producers (like Jim Bell) are tweeting like crazy.
The Olympics are an intense demonstration of what’s become a fact of life: we get our news from Twitter. This morning, competitors and observers learned that Michael Phelps dropped out of the 400M freestyle relay through Twitter. We’re getting insider news like never before.
Most interesting – the audience is tweeting like crazy – and it’s not all positive. #nbcfail is, if not a trending topic, then one that a lot of people, including the network, are aware of. I love that NBC has embraced that.
My guess is that, in the next Olympics, the coverage will shift now that we know the audience can talk back. There ARE experts online. One effect I’d love to see: Better questions from the correspondents after a race is run! If we can see every twitch of muscle during competition, and the correspondents know so much during the events, why are both we and the athletes subjected to questions like “How are you feeling?”
3) Engagement. Are we driving tune-in? Is the audience staying engaged through FB, Twitter, NBC’s apps? Is there a revenue number that can be tied to heightened social media activity? NBC will no doubt keep those numbers close to the vest – but they have huge implications for the future of media, both social and traditional.
What do you think? Like I said — this is a quick thought, one I wanted to put out there and start a #conversation.