Rio 2016: NBC slammed for time delay and commercial breaks in opening ceremonies broadcast

For the network money comes first and it's pouring in faster even than in London in 2012

David Usborne
New York
Saturday 06 August 2016 13:57 BST
Matt Lauer of NBC arriving in Rio
Matt Lauer of NBC arriving in Rio (AP)

Some Americans were presumably persuaded that what they were watching was live when they settled in their front rooms on Friday night for the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies.

Others were not.

The action from Rio de Janeiro had barely begun - correction, they had begun at least one hour before - and viewers were already taking to social media to vent their anger at NBC, the exclusive broadcaster of the Games in the US, for delivering anything but a live, seamless opening night experience.

The network was also widely scorned for the frequency of its advertising breaks. Denizens of Twitter - including this writer - began posting expressions of disgust as the top presenters, notably Matt Lauer, who usually hosts a breakfast show in the US, repeatedly announced a new break with, “there’s much more to come.”

Anyone who was counting can tell you that the NBC crew contrived to interrupt the beauty of the gala inside the Maracana Stadium by inserting no fewer than eight commercial breaks within 65 minutes of its broadcast starting.

While the advertising spots may have been of a far higher grade than usual on a Friday night, featuring products notably from BMW and Coca Cola, the effect was jarring.

Owned by the media giant, Comcast, the so-called Peacock Network has money to make of course. Last week it revealed it had already done $1.2 billion in advertising business related to the Rio Games - that’s 20 per cent more than it won from the 2012 London Games, never mind all the early cynicism about Zika and Rio’s lack of preparedness.

That haul for NBC does not include digital advertising sales, which so far are up 30 per cent on four years ago.

For some viewers, it was the impulse to try to find other channels, or streaming sites, to watch instead of the commercial breaks that revealed the unsettling truth that NBC had applied a one-hour time delay to its opening ceremonies show. If you were on the East Coast. Those on the other side of the country were not shown anything until a full four hours after they had actually happened in Rio de Janeiro.

The purpose, of course, was also to maximise earnings by making certain the audiences would be as large as possible, which meant holding back all the fun and colour until prime time began in the respective US time zones. Never mind that that Brazil is only one hour adrift from Eastern Standard Time.

Finding alternative sources of live news from Rio proved difficult, however, as NBC had even added restrictions to its own normal live streaming services to try to make sure viewers didn’t defect to them. BBC World was an option. But there presenters were chatting about the parade of nations, when here in the US we had hadn’t even got to the Giselle Bundchen part.

Nor was everybody particularly moved by NBC’s approach to the night, which included repeated segments about the richness of Brazil that might have been made by its tourist office twenty years ago. “Rio Olympics: NBC Opening Ceremony Miraculously Makes Brazil Boring,” was the verdict on Saturday morning of

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