NBC denies USA true Olympic Opening Ceremony experience

The world waited, then watched in awe as Danny Boyle and London hosted Friday’s incredible, unbelievable Opening Ceremony of the 30th Olympiad. The US waited longer.

Much will be written about the spectacular opening, it was indeed the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen, I only wish I had shared it with my wife, who was attending a conference in the USA and my Dad who lives there.

Not the sheep, the grass, the athletes, no, perhaps the most unbelievable thing about the Olympics Opening Ceremony was NBC’s (the USA’s Official and exclusive Olympics Broadcaster) decision to delay the ceremony’s telecast on US TV – it was not shown on any channel live in the USA.

The Olympics is rare, unique and unites the world. The 2012 games have already been labelled as the “Social Games” due to the anticipated role that social media is expected to play in connecting viewers, sponsors and athletes. Hundreds of millions of dollars has been invested in websites, plug-ins, apps, competitions and promotions to drive social media engagement and to allow fans to get closer to the stars and to harbour a sense of global connection and interdependence – something only a global event like the Olympics can provide.

I understand the decision to delay is to maximise TV audience, ad revenue and thus minimise the predicted $1bn loss NBC are heading towards on the Olympics (NBC lost $223m on the Vancouver Winter Olympics and is owned by Olympic Tier One Partner GE who also invest millions into the Games).

However, I am disappointed for all viewers in the US – that NBC has denied them the true Olympic Ceremony experience. In 2012, major global events are consumed across multiple entertainment channels, devices and part of the experience is the global interaction possible through social media. Across the world viewers were posting, blogging, texting, tweeting, calling and crying in amazement of the the greatest city in the World.

With the disharmony and isolation of US society and politics today, uniting with the world to experience a once in a lifetime moment, perhaps the greatest opening ceremony ever, would have had huge restorative significance.

US viewers should have been able to feel the world’s joy when the first Saudi female Olympian was presented, when the Greatest Mohammed Ali stood tall and when 204 flames united as one. 203 countries watched and one missed out. (US viewers better get used to moving start times and delayed telecasts, NBC have recently won the rights to broadcast the Olympics for until 202o.)

The backlash on social media for the delay and for NBC’s decision to carve up and commercialise the ceremony with extra ads was vast when the conversation should have been one of excitement, pride and unity.

NBC missed an opportunity to drive social media engagement, maximise social media ad revenue and make the Ceremony a truly memorable event, the way it was for the world. NBC showed such a lack of understanding of social media – viewers will always find a way to access what they want when they want it, late has no value and  if it not live it is not loved. Delays and repeats are just not as special when you know the whole world has already seen and shared what you are watching.

What a shame for the US – NBC somethings are bigger than money.