Articles from work: No Such Thing As a Bad Hashtag


The 2012 Summer Games are being hailed as history’s first “Social Olympics.” In an attempt to adapt to this new market, NBC live tweeted the opening ceremony. The interesting thing, of course, is that NBC’s broadcast was delayed. The world’s microbloggers aren’t too happy about it.

nbc-fail-tweet-1The hashtag #NBCFail has been trending in America since the first day of Olympic broadcasting. Most of the outrage focuses on the standard delay that NBC has implemented in order to run the more exciting and noteworthy events during primetime viewing hours, however the introduction of the hashtag has given viewers a platform to complain further.

nbc-fail-tweet-2This looks like a marketing nightmare for NBC. Many critics have called for a reform of the standard tape-delay strategy in light of such negative press. However, NBC doesn’t seem to be budging.


The truth is, delaying coverage of the Olympic Games is nothing new. In fact, it’s something that’s almost always been done in order to cope with international time zones. Would anyone actually watch Michael Phelps compete if it were aired live at 11 am?

To fully understand the situation, we have to start thinking like advertisers. NBC paid over $1 billion for the exclusive rights to broadcast the Summer Olympics in America. In order to turn a profit on that colossal investment, NBC has to sell air time to advertisers. Those advertisers will pay more money for air time during primetime viewing hours, and even more money if it’s during a highly anticipated event.

NBC’s strategy is to broadcast the competitions with the highest anticipation during the most viewed hours. Doing so raises the price of air time and increases their profits. After all, NBC is a business.

The Bottom Line

So, has all the negative press about NBC’s tape delay hurt their the TV giant’s ratings? It doesn’t look like it. In fact, NBC’s broadcasts are breaking records.


Over 31 million viewers tuned in for the third night of the London Summer Olympics on NBC. That’s a 36-year high for an Olympics broadcast, second only to the 1960 Rome Games.

The old saying goes “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Sure, it’s cliché and overused, but maybe there’s some truth to it. New tweets are posted every second with the hashtag #NBCFail, generating a staggering number of conversations. The world is talking about NBC and that, good or bad, is always profitable.

To read more of my posts from work, check out my author’s page.

 David Pemberton, Editor, Social Media + PR, AREA203 Digital; follow… @Dave_Your_Fave


77 thoughts on “Articles from work: No Such Thing As a Bad Hashtag

  1. Davey Dave Dave… I agree NBC is a business etc, but when companies are so obviously messing with reality to make returns on their investments it is always going to annoy the public. Twitter definitely is its own world, I’m still trying to decide if its a worthwhile one or not. Enjoying your avatar over there tho, maha!

    • I think Twitter is exciting and completely worthwhile. What are your aversions to it? OH, and thanks! It was my first gif.

  2. I’ve opted to watch NONE of the Olympics. By the time an event airs, the news programs have already told me what’s going to happen. Why bother? I also quickly tired of commercials and was reminded of why I don’t actually watch TV.

  3. I have three complaints (which may or may be not NBC’s fault): 1) I hate the fact that I hear about who won before we actually get to see the performance. 2) I understand about airing during prime time and while appreciated for those of us who work, it’s also difficult because of how late they run at night (12:00am!). If you have to get up early for work, it royally sucks. 3) Lastly, they didn’t show full events. Woman’s volleyball last night, for example – because they have to air commercials, we miss five or six points of the game each time! Very frustrating.

    By the way, congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • I agree with everything you’re saying. I think this problem, overall, is the realization between the tension of traditional and new media being equally prevalent.

      And thanks! I’m super excited about it.

  4. The World Cup Soccer tournament plays all of it’s games live no matter what time zone they are in and they are shown commercial free. The fanatics, like me, make sure we are awake to see the games live. The network covering the games also does replays in prime time for those not able to catch the live games. If this method works for the World Cup, the most watched sporting event on the planet, why not do the same for the Olympics? Because NBC is even more greedy than the corrupt lunatics running FIFA.

    • What network broadcasts these shows? Do you think that there is a big difference in how a major network and how a cable network might function?

      • ESPN aired all the World Cup soccer games live and free (no cable subscription/code needed) online, and full replays were available an hour after the live game finished. No commercials, no need for a cable subscription. I was very surprised and disappointed that for watching the Olympics online on NBC you needed a cable subscription, even for replays.

        Great post though, and congrats on being freshly pressed!

      • I have read several articles on users turning to the BBC for full coverage, however I’ve not tried it myself. And thanks! It’s really exciting!

    • In terms of public sentiment or in terms of profits? A business doesn’t care if the community hates them if that community also gives them money.

  5. As another poster pointed out, I attempted to watch the Olympics but got so frustrated with NBC’s commercials making me miss parts of the games. I wouldn’t have minded if it were timed right like it is with regular sports but it just got completely cumbersome that I stopped. I understand that the company has to make money because that’s all it is about for them. But I wasn’t satisfied, not with the commentators who made awful puns, choppy and blurry images, so I gave it up. I would have rather watched it streaming on Ustream, Youtube. Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    • I think you make a good point. Scheduling aside, it seems that NBC has done a poor job of broadcasting in general. And thanks! It’s really exciting!

      • I see… Which then brings up the issue of why do people even care if they are watching it anyway?

        My gripe is just that I have no clue when the events are coming on. For example, yesterday I knew what time the men’s track and field100 m final was actually taking place but missed the broadcast. Freaking silly.

      • It’s a broken system, and something needs to change. I predict that by the next Olympics, there will be a more robust mobile viewing platform that allows audiences to watch whatever the want, whenever they want, remotely.

      • Currently, you can view most events by live streams but it also requires that viewers have an internet provider under a contract with NBC.

        I’m not totally sure how to fix the ad dollars issue. My only complaint is I don’t know when and what channel to watch for the smaller events

  6. #LMAO I like that CNN was telling people to mute their telly’s so that they wouldn’t spoil the news for anyone – then showed a giant graphic a la “MICHAEL PHELPS WON!” with a picture of athlete and metal. Oh news media, you are enchanting.

    • I think this points towards traditional and new media both being equally prevalent. As much as we all might hate to admit it, Twitter is a valid news source. #ROFL

  7. In Australia, Channel Nine has been heckled and hated for this too. Twitter has been a helpful media avenue because people can voice their disgruntled feelings and opinions on the matter. It has now become an event that needs to be judged on its merits and level of commodity, and to bank on the best sporting events. Why oh why.

    Does this say that networks and broadcasters can do what they like and people will happily watch, even if it is just the most popular events. I really like Badminton and BMX, if they don’t get the ratings will I be forced to stream it or get Foxtel? Why can’t we all support and watch our national stars and athletes without the need to dish out dollar bills.

    Next Olympics I suspect we will see a lot more #Olympicfail and things like #OlympicBroadcastBoycott, as people having suffered this Olympics find they have no more faith and confidence in watching it. I for one am almost there.

    • For NBC, it’s not about audience approval. It’s about profit, which they are currently making. If people don’t like how NBC (or Channel Nine) broadcasts, they need to turn their TVs off until something changes.

  8. Considering that following the correct outlets and news sources, you can find out raw results after things have occurred, then watching them on YouTube, why do people still watch live events?

    Even sports broadcasts? Most fans only care about the score.

  9. My main complaint about NBC’s broadcast is not the fact that the most anticipated events are delayed, but that NBC won’t tell us when within the five-hour 7-midnight block each event will air. There might be a schedule on, but I can’t actually visit it without seeing the winners plastered all over the front page.

  10. I watch NBC do alot of cycling broadcasts, specifically the Tour de France. For some reason that coverage is infinatly better than the Olympics despite the fact that helicopters and cameras on motorcycles and cars are used and editing is a nightmare. Phil Lickett, Paul Sherwin, and Bob Roll bring the sport to life with historical comentary as well as an amazing insight to a complex world of professional cycling, even including this year the fact that the Athletes would be preparing for the Olympics. Reason NBCfail#’s is because 1 while some anouncers are great Bob Costa is a bit retarded for sports commentary, quite literally he is a bit slow. NBC blew the Canadian Olympics by showing that poor athlete parish so often that I was sick to my stomach. NBC needs to edit better, offer a better online coverage, and can Costas. Word on the street is Yahoo is covering the Olympics better than NBC.

  11. Do you think this is only being highlighted as a problem now because social media allows regular viewers to become more media savvy or less savvy? The media has always been a business.
    I mean, as you pointed out, the way NBC is broadcasting this (apart from horribly) is nothing new. They are just maximizing profits. The only thing that has changed is people’s awareness of it thanks, in large part, to Twitter.
    Congrats on FP btw!

  12. Hey there.
    I’m really sorry to be boring, but I’ve just started this blog of mine, about something that’s really important for me, and I’m kind of a beginner in the art of blogging. Anyway, I would really apreciate if you just took a quick look at it just to tell me what you think of it. Thanks so much,
    Ps: Cool blog!

    • Amelle,

      I like your blog, especially the way most of your updates focus on body image. Do you have a twitter account? Adding a twitter feed widget might be a good way to keep your page updated every day without having to post a new blog every day. Does that make sense?

      • Hello.
        Thank you so much for taking a look! It’s a subject that’s really important for me, as I have been bullied numerous times in the past! I unfortunetaly don’t have a twitter account… I makes a lot of sense! It’s a shame, I know….

  13. Tape delay isn’t the only problem with the coverage. Way too much Bob Costas, almost every sport not named gymnastics, swimming and beach volleyball is shipped off to the other channels (Bravo,MSNBC) forced story lines (even when Ryan Lochte loses they tell the story from his perspective) instead of letting the drama unfold, and cheesy features taking up air time instead of actual events. I get saving the prime events for prime time, but the Olympics are also about the diversity of events and people.

    • I have heard a lot of negatives about Bob Costas. Oddly enough, I’ve not watched one minute of the Olympics on TV. I get all my updates through social media (surprise surprise, I know).

  14. I completely agree. As cheap as it may be, publicity is publicity and if people are generating conversations and more importantly, ideas, around you, then you are in a brilliant place.

    • From a marketing standpoint, it’s ideal. There’s a reason that NBC’s profits are seeing an all time high during this specific Olympic season.

  15. I understand the delay. As a viewer I have to put myself on internet blackout if I don’t want to know ahead of time and walk around saying “Spoiler Alert.” My problems with the coverages are: 1. The backstory pieces are too long and take away time during which other sports could be aired. 2. Other filler pieces aren’t even backstory. I’d rather see an obscure event rather than a story about bagpipes 3. Referring to female athletes as Divas, girls and incessantly talking about their smiles when they win. 4. Commenting on what random Twitter users are saying as if it is news. 5. The obvious breaking up of previously completed events to keep viewers i.e. showing part of gymnastics at 9pm then switching to swimming and coming back to gymnastics at 11pm then swimming. Both events had been completed anyway, why not just show them? oh yeah to keep the gymnastics viewers glued to the TV. 6. Short changing classic Olympic events of skill and endurance like the Women’s Heptathlon because the favored winner was not American. 7. Making the online viewing difficult — my elderly father didn’t look online because he had to sign up for something and was put off by the process. 8. Giving us medal counts without listing the events completed. 9. Not having a place to check a true viewing schedule without accidentally being informed of the results. 10. Not being directed where to go to view some of the more obscure events. 11. Wasting air time talking about what Facebook and Twitter people are saying (NBC Fail — people on Facebook and Twitter can check their own timeline. People on Facebook and Twitter only care what their own friends and followers say. People not on Facebook and Twitter could care less. 12. And again with unnecessary interviews — Taking up viewing time at the Summer Olympics by interviewing the US Snowboarding guy? Really? 13. Commentators who only talk about the favored winners and don’t even tell us who it was who pulled up hurt in a race or fell. 14. Camera work that concentrates on close ups of the athletes faces so much that we cannot see the field, gym, pool, or court. I find myself screaming — I can’t see who’s winning!!!! 15. Camera work that shows too many reactions of parents and coaches. 16. Being stingy with showing final results. When USA got silver in vault, I had to go online to see who got bronze. When Gabby won All-Round with that close score, NBC never showed the silver medalist’s actual score on her last event.

    And because NBC frequently drops important information, we can’t look it up without getting spoilers. Very frustrating.

    Okay, I’ll stop now. My point is that the delay, while annoying, is understandable and somewhat unavoidable. These other things are completely unnecessary. They really dumb things down for us.

    • Wow, you make a lot of good points. You’ve practically written a companion blog in my comments section. I agree with your 15 or so points, it’s all SUPER annoying. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. As long as the numbers are good for NBC nothing is going to change. Don’t like a program or when it’s shown? Don’t tune in and once the numbers fall significantly, the network will change. Ah, but the trick is to get enough people to do that and they know as well as you do, it’s never going to happen.

  17. Nice mentions on How NBC needs to take care of their advertisers. Here’s a funny one for you-On Saturday during the day, the electronic TV guide said “LIVE” olympics from Noon-6p. I DVR’d it. Turned it on at 9p to watch it and all that was on my DVR was Judge Judy and Brothers and Sisters and more Brothers and Sisters. And I did try and watch it LIVE at the Gym on Saturday, but once again got Brothers and Sisters. Pretty wierd

  18. Yeah. So, I’m pretty much a non-tweeter. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m just lazy (I still have a dumb phone for 73 more days). Either way, you’re right about the publicity is publicity. Look at Chick-fil-A – it could go either way, really. With NBC – yes, they failed at the social side of things, but the Olympics win out, because most people don’t really care what station its aired on, just that it is.

  19. My only complaint about NBC is that the Olympics is in the TV guide as one 11 hour show, making it impossible to set the DVR in advance to record just a few events. I have to wait until closer to the event and hope I remember to turn on the TV and set up the recording. I’m getting very stressed about missing rhythmic gymnastics. BEST. SPORT. EVER.

  20. I didn’t think that the ratings would be hurt, but I also don’t think those of us in Twitter Nation are in our own world either. Although I see every events results hours before, and even enjoy some of the larger events live on my iPad, I still have not taken my TV off the NBC family of networks since the Olympics started, and probably won’t until they end.

    I do hate the way NBC is going about everything, but there is very few things that will turn me away from watching team USA compete when they are on.

  21. Here’s the thing- anyone who is actually concerned with the tape-delay could just watch a live stream via the internet. Although it may take a little effort and in some cases, a bit of money, you could totally see these events as the occur if you had the right technology. In any case, it seems to me that persons with such a concern and desire to view these events as they happen would find a way to do so. Lastly- I’d just like to say that #NBCFAIL is the name of the team that beat mine in bar trivia this evening for a $50 bar tab, so I guess it was a #NBCFAILWIN?

  22. interesting. i knew about the delay but i didn’t know that people were so angry! i work monday through friday, 8:30 – 5:30 so i either watch the events later or stream them on ctv?

      • CTV is a canadian broadcasting station (sorry, should have explained better – i live in montreal, so i get that this article doesn’t really apply to me) – – ctv live streams the events and they keep a small archive of recent events so you can watch them if you’ve missed them.

        i never really considered that people would be so upset by the delay because i’ve been watching it all online.

      • I assumed it was Canadian. I’ve always wanted to live there, I’ve been up near Victoria before. I really like pancakes.

        But really, I think people are upset by the tension caused between social and traditional media. No one cares that they are seeing a race at a 4 hour delay, they are upset that they know the outcome of that race prior to experiencing it. People are weird.

      • i like pancakes too!

        i see what you mean. i’ve kind of just learned not to go on twitter if i don’t want something ruined for me (shows, movies, books, events). anyway thanks for sharing!!

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