So far, even the Olympics can’t budge our outdated TV models

Olympic stadium, London

Once again, NBC is irritating the heck out of millions of Americans by messing around with the Olympics. Once again, the decision to show the opening ceremony in prime time via a time delay has resulted in people accusing NBC of “not getting it,” and of thinking “it’s 1992.” Once again, the decision to edit the games has some sports fans irked about cuts NBC made in the opening ceremony.

And once again, U.S. consumers don’t get it. Sure, people are frustrated because they can’t easily stream the Olympics online without a cable subscription, and there will always be sports fans who don’t want the edited version of The Games with the life stories on athletes and dramatic cuts. But frankly, for now, NBC doesn’t really care what those people want.

NBC paid $1.18 billion for the right to broadcast the Olympics and it will be a cold day in hell before it dilutes the amount it can charge advertisers or the value it has to cable providers. In many ways, even though NBC depends on huge audiences to justify the rates it’s charging advertisers, it can afford to alienate some of them. And it’s worth noting that there are probably millions of happy families who watched the opening ceremony last night and had little idea it could be any other way.

In the U.S., people who want to stream are a highly vocal minority, but it’s a minority that is growing. And while NBC may not care that I — as one of the between 3.6 or 9 million cord cutters — couldn’t authenticate to see the opening ceremony via the web or streaming, maybe someone should.

NBC broadcast an edited and time-delayed version of the opening ceremony last night over the air, but I couldn’t see that either. I can’t get over-the-air TV since the switch from analog to digital TV signals in 2009, because my home just doesn’t seem to be in the right location. Even satellites don’t work. The only way I could watch NBC’s broadcast of the ceremony was if I paid for cable, but that’s not something I want to do just to watch a once-every-two-year event. And anyway, I shouldn’t have to buy cable to see the opening ceremony, since NBC is using the public airwaves for free to deliver broadcast TV. Glenn Fleishman via Twitter suggested that the FCC ought to investigate this, and maybe it should.

But really what I think needs to occur is a realization that until the business models right themselves in the TV industry, consumers, especially cord cutters, are going to get screwed out of some content. It’s not “fair,” but as the population of people who demand streaming grows, and they in turn are seen a valuable demographic to advertisers, then perhaps the next Summer Games will give consumers more of what they want, where and when they want it.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock user Padmayogini

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