At the Olympics, NBC Brings Us Survivor: We Really Want the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl shows us every year that no matter how “new” media advances in our lives, there is nothing like a live sporting event to get us to gather around the old fashioned TV and have a great time. Everybody seems to win (except the losing team)– the public, the network and the advertisers who pony up big dollars to entertain us with their 60 second spots.

We, as human beings, seem drawn to the grand live sporting event for the same reason we are drawn to great drama in all its forms.  We don’t know how it all ends and we want to go on the journey together in order to find out.  So we cheer, scream in agony, and try to hope and  guess who will ultimately win.  We escape our regular lives for a short time and live vicariously in the competitive lives of other human beings. With the advent of twitter and Facebook, we can now share our emotions and thoughts with others as the drama unfolds in real time, thus heightening the experience even further. Here old media, new media, audience and advertisers all fit  together.

At the London Olympics, NBC brings us Survivor instead of the Super Bowl.

Every day during the Olympics NBC constructs for us a reality TV version of the games that is more akin to the way Survivor is shown to an audience than the way we see the Super Bowl.

Survivor and TV shows like it feature contests that are interspersed with competitor interviews and background information on the contestants.  The interviews and competitions are prerecorded and then edited together for maximum dramatic effect.  This compilation is  then released over a several week period and loaded up with commercials.  This works for reality TV because we don’t know who really has won–the participants and staff all sign confidentiality agreements and leaks typically do not occur.

Let’s look at what occurs in London.  The events are scheduled throughout the day–London time of course.  The marquee events–those that will appeal to the US audience (the one advertisers covet) are not put on the air when they occur.  Instead, they are held back and are given the “Survivor” treatment for an evening prime time show.  NBC knows the result and therefore surrounds the recorded event with human interest background and drama that will build to that result.

They do this to create the maximum amount of TV Ad space in their prime time TV schedule. However, there is only one big problem. Unlike Survivor, we already know who has won.  All we want to do is see the race–and the network has deprived us of the pleasure of seeing it unfold in real time.

Here is how we want to see the Olympics.

Bring to us the Super Bowl style broadcast–in real time with social media wrapped around it, so we can all experience it and talk about it together.  We want the real drama of the event as it actually happens.

The problem is simple to see. At the 2012 Olympics, the advertisers, the viewing public and the broadcast model are misaligned with each other.  For the Super Bowl and Survivor they work perfectly together. NBC just has to realize that the Survivor model just does not work for the viewing public.

Instead they need to get with the Super Bowl model.

About Chris Dorr

I consult with companies on digital media strategy and business development. Clients include Samsung, MTV Networks, Tribeca Film Festival, Shaw Media and Canadian Film Center. I created the Future of Film blog for Tribeca. I have worked in the movie business for Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Scott Free and in the digital media business for Intertainer, Sony and Nokia. Contact me at chris@digitaldorr.com or follow me at @chrisdorr
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